Tuesday, June 23, 2015

An interview with photographer Nicole White

Nicole White is a Lecturer in Photography at UK’s School of Art & Visual Studies. She completed her BFA at Massachusetts College of Art + Design in 2002. In 2010, she received her MA in Art History from the University of Connecticut, and her MFA in Studio at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012. Her artwork examines the reproduction and dissemination of photographic images, particularly with a focus on the shifting materiality of the medium. See http://www.nicolewhite.net/

This summer, Nicole is spending time at the Museum, finding artworks of interest and photographing them as a continuation of her ongoing research. She answered a few questions from Director Stuart Horodner about this project: 

SH: You were sharing some recent photographs at a meeting of the Lexington Camera Club, and I was struck by their abstract and process-centric vitality. Can you describe what they are, how you made them? 

NW:  Those particular images came from an ongoing series loosely titled “Light Studies”. As of late, I have been working in a reductive process and thinking primarily about how materials can be transformed through the camera using light, reflections, and time.  The images in this series have all been produced differently (different cameras, printing methods, etc.). The process is dictated by what the materials are in front of the camera. The one piece we spoke about at length was Untitled (Ivory), a diptych that I shot at the Lizzadro Museum of Lapidary Art just outside of Chicago. In this instance, my final image was made via a long exposure of light passing through a thinly carved ivory folding screen. I photographed the piece from the “wrong” side –the verso—in order to reduce the carved scene to silhouettes. 

When I make images, I’m not always attempting to abstract something to the point where the original reference in lost; I try to create a space where the thing depicted has been transformed in a manner that asks for a longer engagement with the final work. 

SH: It seemed like a no-brainer to invite you to work in the Museum as we get ready to reinstall our permanent collection, giving you access to our storage area and the freedom to use our holdings for your own investigation. What are you thinking about as you begin? 

NW: First and foremost, I was immediately reminded of my past experiences as an archivist and collections/curatorial assistant at various institutions of over the past decade. “Institutionalized objects” are fascinating both in and of themselves along with the processes employed to keep them stable. However, with this project I am approaching the collection as an artist, which means that I have the ability to juxtapose objects and materials in ways that otherwise would never occur.  
I’m looking at this experience as a site for recontextualizing the objects and the space that contains them (i.e. the museum). Most of the objects that I am drawn to are those that are in states of change or have a compelling tactile quality.  

SH: The embedded artist in a museum or collection is now a very established strategy—Fred Wilson and  Louise Lawler immediately come to mind. But your image-making seems less about critiquing the institution or the art industry, and more about using objects in a more generative way. Are there any historical or contemporary artists/photographers whose works connect to this project? 

NW: James Welling’s Glass House photographs would be one of the most immediate references. His images are an examination of light and reflection/refraction rather than documents of the architecture. The building itself acts as a backdrop for experiments that engage with Philip Johnson’s ideas but produce a completely new interpretation of the environment. 

Also, Spencer Finch’s approach to object production is one that speaks to my interests as well.  Many of his works reference specific optical or ephemeral qualities of canonical artworks through another medium. I recently saw one of his florescent light sculptures, Shadow, Sculpture of Centaur, Tuileries (after Atget), and was struck by the lengths at which Finch went to recreate a particular experience of color from an aged photograph. It’s a virtually impossible task, yet he attempts to tackle it – and while producing an equally beautiful object. 

 And, as you mentioned, there is a long history of photographers working within the museum’s walls. Those works are doing something different than what I hope to achieve, but I do think that their existence is what allow me to move from that conversation to one of closer inspection. They build a framework that I have to acknowledge and be aware of as I utilize some of their tactics in my project.
 Based on some of our conversations, I sense that you have a real desire to find new ways to connect the museum to the larger university. For you, what is the benefit to having an artist come in and rifle through the collection?  

SH: Yes, one of the major reasons I wanted to work here was to animate the museum by establishing numerous ways it could be used by the campus community. Logical partners are colleagues at the School of Art and Visual Studies, but also those faculty and students in music, theatre, architecture, creative writing, philosophy, etc. 

I like seeing how flexible institutions can be. I want to allow artists like yourself to see the museum from another POV, and use it as a studio or lab. I have no idea if this will yield interesting results but I want to see what happens. This is simultaneously generous and selfish.  We're all enjoying you being here examining the collection with us, and making unique images that we can share with our various audiences.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Successful Interns

Elizabeth Glass interned with curator Janie Welker during the Spring semester, and did everything from writing labels and formatting checklists to helping to install the Chester Cornett:Beyond the Narrow Sky exhibition and decorate the Museum for our annual fundraiser Art in Bloom. She has been chosen for a highly competitive internship at the The Cloisters Museum and Garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: http://www.metmuseum.org/visit/visit-the-cloisters

I am a senior at the University of Kentucky, majoring in Art History/Museum Studies, and working towards a minor in German. When I first started going to school here I was a marketing major, and quickly realized that I did not enjoy it at all, switching majors just last year.

Over winter break I started applying for summer 2015 internships. I applied to places like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The Guggenheim in New York City, and the Seattle Art Museum. The one museum that I wanted to intern with more than anything was the Metropolitan Museum Art in New York. I had been told that it is extremely hard to get an internship there, and that most people have to apply more than once before they are offered an interview. I decided to try anyway, although I knew I had a slim chance of being granted an interview. To my astonishment I interviewed with the Senior Medieval Research Associate in March, and was offered an internship in the medieval department at the Cloisters soon after that.

The specific qualifications required for The Met’s medieval internship are working knowledge of the German language and graphic design skills. As a German-speaking graphic designer in Lexington, I was a perfect fit for the position. Before moving to Lexington to finish my undergrad degree I lived in New York City for five years just for fun, working various jobs and attending various schools, so I am sure my knowledge of the city did not hurt my chances either. After being offered the internship in April I booked a plane ticket, and headed to New York on May 28th.

At The Met I will mainly be working at the Cloisters giving tours focusing on reliquaries that are currently on display, as well as helping to maintain and expand the department’s collection database.  I am also hoping to have the opportunity to spend time with some of the works that are not on display to do some research of my own for next semester’s classes. I am most nervous (but very excited!) about giving tours at The Cloisters.  I have been training as a docent at The Art Museum at UK, but have not given any tours yet. This will be my first experience as a tour guide

Even though I am so excited to begin my internship this summer, I am more excited about the opportunities that will be available for me after my time at The Met is finished. I started out only applying so I could say that I did, not expecting anything to come of it, and ended up with the opportunity of a lifetime. This just goes to show that nothing bad can come from taking a chance and reaching for something you believe to be out of your reach, because you never know what will happen in the end!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Ralph Eugene Meatyard by curator, Janie Welker

May 15 is the 90th anniversary of the birth of photographer Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925-1972), a fearless experimenter and maker of often mysterious and sometimes achingly beautiful images. Although he was a native of Normal, Illinois, we in Lexington claim him for our own: it was during his years with the Lexington Camera Club, from 1954 until his death from cancer in 1972, that he developed the work that has earned him international acclaim.

Meatyard moved here in 1950 to work as an optician at Tinder-Krauss-Tinder and bought a camera the same year. Van Deren Coke, who would later become more prominent as a curator than a practitioner of photography, was his mentor at the Lexington Camera Club. When Coke left to pursue his career, Meatyard took on his role as teacher and mentor to others. Camera club members not only showed their own work, but invited prominent photographers of the day to exhibit work and speak to the group, keeping abreast of contemporary trends.

Meatyard is known for using blurred motion and multiple exposures, seeking out dilapidated houses and barns in rural Kentucky as settings, and using family and friends as models. In the mid-1950s he became interested in Zen philosophy and his work focused less on recording the physical world than inner realities. He staged scenes, often featuring his children, sometimes concealing their identity with masks. He wanted to encourage people to create their own interpretations of his work, which the writer Guy Davenport once described as “charming stories that have never been written.”

The Art Museum is currently exhibiting two of Meatyard’s photographs from the Georgetown Street project, an early experiment in street photography he made with Van Deren Coke, in the exhibition Other Streets: Photographs from the Collection, on view through July 26, 2015.
RALPH EUGENE MEATYARD, Untitled, 1955-56,
gelatin silver print, collection of The Art Museum at UK

Romance of Ambrose Bierce#3,
1964 (printed 1974), gelatin silver print,
collection of The Art Museum at UK