Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Exhibiting Your Work: Framing

The Kiernan Gallery’s exhibitions are each based on a different theme. The varying interpretations of each theme make for an interesting show, but can be problematic in a small gallery. When you factor in different print sizes and framing options, the consistency of the show can start to fall apart. Since our exhibitions are comprised of the work of many different artists, we have framing requirements to make sure the show will be visually cohesive. While these guidelines are provided to the selected artists, I still receive emails asking for leniency or clarification fairly regularly. Because of this, I thought I would take the opportunity to explain what the framing requirements really mean, and why they’re in place. 

-       Ready to Hang:
“Ready to hang” means there must be a wire on the back of the frame. A hook for a nail or a wide lipped frame that could be hung on a nail is not the same thing. At The Kiernan Gallery, it is very important that there is a wire provided, because we use a suspension system rather than nails in the wall. The suspension system consists of tracks along the walls with clear wire and hooks. These hooks are specifically designed to be used with wired frames, thus a picture is not physically able to hang in the gallery without a wire attached.
-       No Colored Mats or Frames:
This means black or white frames and black or white mats only (grey and cream mats are not acceptable). While natural wood frames are not exactly a “color”, they stick out as the only non-black or white frame in the show. This is why it is important that the framing is restricted to black or white. Hanging a show should depend on the image, the flow of the room, and the size of the work. Color of frames and/or mats should not be a factor in assembling the show.
-       Black Frame vs. White Frame:
White frames have had a recent surge in popularity, particularly with color images. For images with cool or muted tones, I think white frames are a great option. They remove the “black border” effect often used in silver gelatin printing, and rarely used in color photography. They also bring more attention to the image. However, I do not think that white frames are the best option for black and white prints. For the most part they should be left to color images, in my opinion.
-       Metal Frame vs. Wood Frame:
As a photographer, I do not have a preference for either wood or metal frames. As a gallerist concerned with esthetics, I do not have a preference either. But as a gallerist who hates to tell her artists that their work has been damaged, I much prefer metal frames. Metal frames will not crack or chip in shipping and will not split if the wire is screwed in too tightly. If something happens to the photograph (such as an image slipping in its frame), I am able to open it up and address the problem. They also tend to be lighter and thus less expensive to ship.
-       Feet Are Neat!
Most professional framers will attach small pieces of rubber or felt to the back corners of the frame. These “feet” keep the frame from scratching the wall and prevent the piece from sliding around on the hook. If you are not using a professional framer, you can purchase these “feet” from any hardware or craft store. We keep some on hand at the gallery for any pieces that did not come with them, but it is preferable to have work shipped with them in place.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Announcement: New Call for Entry!

Every photograph tells a story. When part of a body of work, the photograph takes on a new meaning, becoming part of a bigger and more complete narrative. A portfolio allows the photographer to explore the complexities of their subject, and provide context that gives it a richness that is more than the sum of its parts.

I receive many emails from photographers looking for solo exhibitions at the gallery, and while I love the cohesive nature of an artist’s portfolio, we are a submission-based gallery and do not usually represent specific artists or offer solo exhibitions. Despite that, all these inquiries have inspired me. The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to announce its first annual summer portfolio showcase, juried by renowned photographer Dan Estabrook. He will be selecting eight photographers, whose work will be on display in two shows: June 6 - July 14, and July 18 - August 25.
- Artists should submit a body of 10-15 images, an artist statement, and a link to your website (if applicable).
- Artists must be prepared to print, frame, and ship their work if selected.
- The artist statements and submitted work of all eight selected photographers will be reproduced in an exhibition catalogue available for purchase.
- All exhibiting photographers will be featured on The Kiernan Gallery’s blog and website.
- Electronic show cards will also be made for each artist.
The eight artists selected for the exhibition will be split evenly between the two shows (groups to be determined by the gallery). Depending on the size of the work, some submitted images may not fit into the exhibition. Collaboration between the juror, the director, and the artist will decide which pieces will be shown.
This exhibition is a great opportunity for photographers to present an entire body of work for review, and we look forward to working with each artist to figure out how to best display his or her portfolio. I especially encourage students who have completed or are currently working on their theses to apply.

Monday, February 13, 2012

You Never Know... (part 1)

You never know who will see your work and no opportunity to show is too small. As a gallery owner, I receive many emails every day from artists who want to know how to “have their work seen.” My advice, of course, is to submit to one of The Kiernan Gallery’s exhibitions. This may seem a bit self-serving, but let me explain why juried shows are a great way to gain exposure. While I can’t speak for other galleries with regards to their selection processes, I want to take some time to explain how our gallery’s shows are created while pointing out just how much attention you could garner from one show.

1. Submission
The submission process is, of course, the first step in the life of an exhibition. Since our shows are juried, the juror and the gallery director will obviously see your work. Images pique my interest frequently, which leads me to do an internet search for the artist to see if they have a website. I may even send that link along to someone I know who would be interested in their work. At this point three or more people may have seen your work before the selections for the exhibition have even been made. (As an aside: I don’t look at flickr accounts. The same can be said for many other people I know. If you are looking for a career in photography, a personal website is much more professional.)

2. Website
As soon as the juror has made his or her selections, the results are posted on our website. Even though several of the images will only be displayed in the online gallery, I have received emails from people about work they have seen on the website and of course I put them in contact with the artist. Your art can garner a lot of interest even if it is not going to be displayed in the main gallery.

3. Awards
Next, the Juror’s Choice and Director’s Choice awards are announced. The winners gain even more exposure as they are profiled on our blog around the time that the exhibition opens. This gives them an opportunity to discuss their artistic processes and present some of their other work, as well as a link to their website (if they have one). Their winning images are also displayed first on the website and in the catalogue.

4. Show Catalogue
All the selected images are included in the exhibition catalogue. We put each catalogue on display in the main gallery when the show opens, and keep every one on file when the show closes, and nearly everyone who comes into the gallery looks through it at some point. In the past, jurors have purchased multiple copies to show their classes. There could be some very influential people seeing your art without your knowledge, or any extra work on your part. True story: an exhibiting artist had a copy of a catalogue on the coffee table in their studio. A prestigious photography curator happened to stop by, looked at the book, was very impressed, and wanted more information.

5. Gallery Exhibition
Finally, the exhibition goes up in the main gallery, which has a pretty steady flow of visitors for any given show. People frequently express interest in various artists and pieces, and as the gallery owner I like to do some research before the show opens. I often mention, in addition to the information about the piece itself, any buzz surrounding the artist when inquiries are made into their piece on display.

            Many venues work very hard to promote their artists, which is why it is important to show your work whenever you can, no matter how big or how small. You simply never know the extent of exposure an opportunity might bring.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Family Dynamics Award Winners

The Family Dynamics exhibition opens on Wednesday and we are pleased to announce the award winners of the Family Dynamics show: Katie Doyle (Director’s Choice) and Alison Turner (Juror’s Choice). We asked Katie and Alison a few questions about their work to gain insight into their artistic processes.

Juror's Choice
Alison Turner
Winning Image: Brothers

When describing Alison Turner, the word “dedicated” instantly springs to mind. This Long Beach, California based photographer has spent the past three years traveling the United States with almost nothing but her camera, a tent, and her dog, Max, in order to explore the lives of the American people. While this might seem like a daunting prospect for many, for Turner living on the road was almost second nature. “I grew up camping and taking long family road trips in our wood paneled station wagon so it wasn’t unusual for me to spend extended periods of time wandering around.” All it took for her to set off on this incredible journey was building up enough courage to quit her job. Her artistic motivation, on the other hand, can best be described in her own words:

Each day I looked at a map and headed out to an unknown destination. I wasn’t attracted to mundane tourist attractions. Instead, I was drawn to everyday Americans simply living their lives. I took daily portraits of people I randomly encountered at campsites, rest stops, bingo halls, their home, or wandering around town. Each stop had its own unique population of “Americana” personalities. Relying on my distinct personal aesthetic, I would instantly recognize my perfect stranger to photograph. In that moment of paths crossing, I would take their portrait.
            Though the act of photographing a stranger could appear to be purely about the image, for Turner it is much more than that. A curiosity about humanity is her main driving force; a desire to learn who people are, what they do, how they live. And while approaching strangers can be somewhat nerve-wracking, the experience usually turns out to be a positive one. “Most of the time, the people I approach are flattered that I came up to talk with them. I think we are all searching for some human interaction and connection somewhere at any given moment.”

            So what, then, makes one portrait more successful than another? The triumph of Brothers is in the complex relationship conveyed by the photograph. The brothers are obviously close but distant, a theme present in many families. According to Turner, the key is to photograph her subjects just “being.” Having subjects pose can make an image seem artificial. Thanks to her relaxed energy and open personality, Turner finds that many of her chosen subjects feel at ease opening up to her very quickly, which can often lead to a compelling portrait.

            And while she has certainly learned much about this country and its people over the course of her travels, this amazing experience has also taught her much about herself. “Picking up a camera has taught me so much about myself and has pushed me to be a better person. That is the reason I continue to do it.  I can’t imagine life without photographs.”

Director's Choice:
Katie Doyle
Winning Image: Becky's Bedroom

 For Katie Doyle, Becky’s Bedroom is as much an insight into her own life as it is into the lives of her subjects. Part of a larger series of photographs, this image portrays Doyle’s older sister, Becky, with four of her children. She is twenty-four years old and just recently had baby number five. Doyle was compelled to document her sister due to their close relationship and closeness in age. Doyle works with a view that they are almost the same person; that they might replace each other. With such an intimate relationship yet very divergent paths, it’s not too much of a stretch for Doyle to imagine that they might have had a role reversal in another life.

            Because of this, Doyle shows a fascination with the daily life of Becky’s family. Finances dictate that Becky live with her mother, which causes a certain amount of tension. Adding to this is the fact that she is a young mother.

Becky was 14 years old when she first got pregnant, and has been in the role of mother ever since. There is quite a bit of tension in how she is defined. On the one hand, she is very proud and loving of her children and embraces her role. On the other, she also quite understandably wants to be defined in terms of herself - as Becky, not just as the 24 year old mother of 5. I believe this tension is present in the work. 
            With the palpable emotion present in the situation, Doyle had to ease herself into the role as a documentarian. “When I began photographing my family in general (not just Becky), I at first felt voyeuristic and distanced. […] It felt for a while that I was on the outside looking in, and there was a certain resistance to the camera’s presence.” Her solution was to turn the camera on the children, who loved being the center of attention.  “Developing a photographic relationship with my nephews made it a smoother transition to photographing Becky comfortably.” Through this process the sisters have also strengthened their relationship. A great deal of collaboration in the creation of each image emerged between them, which has helped open new lines of communication and understanding.

            By the time Doyle created Becky’s Bedroom she had started to use a 4x5 camera, which significantly slows the photographic process. She started thinking about the size of Becky’s bed in relation to the room and came up with the concept of using the bed as a metaphor for motherhood and childhood, “as the bed is literally where it all begins.” The haphazard positioning of the children, their seeming restlessness, and the messiness of the room then add on new layers of meaning – literal and figurative dirty laundry, the quickness of childhood – to culminate in an image that conveys both a chaos and an intimacy that can very well be the definition of “family dynamics.”