Monday, April 23, 2012

Announcement: New Call For Entry!

Deadline: July 19, 2012
Exhibition: August 29 - September 29
Opening Reception: September 7

Looking at both the vast and the microscopic, landscape photography takes us from backyards to national parks, from mountains to coastlines. This genre includes images of the untouched beauty of the earth as well as places impacted by mankind. In addition to beauty it often explores the contours of our relationship with the land presenting historic battlefields, high-rise jungles, or threatened environments. For Terrain, The Kiernan Gallery seeks images that explore the beauty and complexity of our landscape.

                                                          Sean Kernan 

For this exhibition juror Sean Kernan will select up to 30 images for display in the main gallery and up to an additional 40 to be included in the online gallery. All images will be reproduced in an exhibition catalogue, which is available for purchase. A Juror’s Choice and Director’s Choice will also be announced. All photographic media are encouraged.

About the Juror
Sean Kernan is a photographer, writer, and teacher. He came to photography from theater and is the author of two monographs, The Secret Books and Among Trees. He has exhibited at galleries and museums internationally. His photographs have been published in the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian, New York, Harpers, Bloomberg, Communication Arts, Graphis, Polyrama, and Photo World, and he has done a wide range of advertising work. He has taught and lectured at New School/Parsons, Maine Media Workshops and Santa Fe Workshops, Art Center (Pasadena), International Center for Photography, University of Texas, Wesleyan University, and Yale Medical School, and has numerous awards, most recently from the Center in Santa Fe for teaching, as well as a Doctorate (HC) from Art Center in Pasadena. His work can be viewed at

For more information and submission guidelines, please visit: 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Both Sides of the Lens: Self-portraiture Winners (pt II)

            Aëla Labbé’s photographs draw in the viewer with her haunting quiet images. Studying her pieces more closely, that quietness evolves into a wealth of conflicting emotions. Nowhere is this truer than in her winning piece, New Direction. Part of an ongoing series of self-portraits, it can either provoke a very curious response or, more likely, a very tense and uncomfortable feeling for the viewer. Like other images in this series, New Direction features Labbé contorting herself into an unnatural position while hiding a part of her body. It is precisely that discomfort, present in much of her work, which causes Labbé’s work to stand out.

                                          Juror's Choice: New Direction
As Labbé describes her work:

 My work is intimately influenced by my surrounding and life experiences, my dreams as well as my deeper and most peculiar feelings; it is filled with something that wavers between sorrowfulness and poignant delight. These self-portraits reveal all the complexities and these paradoxes I’m made of, an intangible thing I can feel and understand but hardly articulate with words.
                              Dear Darkness
            Her success in presenting these complex emotions and dreams may stem from Labbé’s use of her skills as a contemporary dancer to “choreograph” each scene. “Choosing quite extreme and ‘unusual’ moves, playing with my own limits and flexibility, using my dancing skills of composition, I tried to combine both mediums to create one singular mode of expression.” Feelings she cannot articulate with words are instead communicated with body language, which Labbé says is the motivation driving the series.

                                          Self Conscious Quirkiness

            Her work is influenced not only by her own emotions and dreams, but also by her family. Specifically, Labbé’s nephews inspire her to explore the experience of being a child.

It was thanks to them that childhood has become a recurrent and determinant theme in my work. It is based on a different vision that aims to show a darker side, and mystery, through unconventional representations of the early time of life. I feel deeply touched and inspired by their imaginary world; we grow and create together.
                                 Waiting For Sleep to Come

                              Creepy Kids
            With such personal meaning behind her art Labbé is certainly pleased by the attention it has garnered both in the United States in her home country of France. Despite this, the purpose of her work is not to gain approval from others. “I’m not creating to ‘fit’ somewhere, the goal and the need after which I go unwaveringly is to share my vision and my emotions with others.” It will undoubtedly be exciting to see where she takes her photography next.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Both Sides of the Lens: Self-portraiture Winners (pt I)

            The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to announce the winners of Both Sides of the Lens: Juror’s Choice, Aëla Labbé and Director’s Choice, Heather Evans Smith. We have asked both artists a few questions about their work and inspiration and present a profile of Heather below. Be sure to check back soon to learn more about Aëla and her work.

                                 Director's Choice: The Heart and the Heavy

            One of the most enchanting aspects of Heather Evans Smith’s work is the depth of emotion that pours out of every image. Nowhere is this more evident than in her winning image, The Heart and the Heavy. From her ongoing series of the same name, this image completely embodies the project’s ideals. “The Heart and the Heavy expresses two sides. A true love and a heavy burden.” The comfort and the obligation are palpable; the heavy house strapped to her back. And though this juxtaposition of emotions could come across as tension or angst, Smith’s work tends to have an underlying sense of calm about it. “The imagery may at times be dark, but I always want there to be a sense of hope as well.” Using common human emotions to create something relatable is really the whole point.

This started through many major life changes in the past few years, both good and bad, not only in my life, but in others' lives that I am close to. I find it is important for me to express what I am going through in imagery. It is cathartic. It takes that feeling out of my head and puts it somewhere else for a while. So far, all of the images have been shot around the farmland in the town where I grew up. There is a sense of familiarity there, nostalgia and melancholy.
                        Earth Beneath My Feet
            Growing up in that rural setting is indeed one reason Smith’s art has evolved in the way that it has. As an only child, imagination and creativity were crucial for entertainment and self-expression. This, coupled with the conceptual nature of her recent work, has translated to a dream-like quality in many of her images. Planning and sketching are integral to the process. “My ideas come from the world around me: light, color, fashion, found objects and music. These are immediately written down and sketched, later to evolve into a story that comes from moments of life, or forms a life of its own.”


            Smith is also highly skilled in post-production, utilizing Photoshop to help achieve a surreal, dreamy quality in her work. Nonetheless, Smith likes to have her images be as real as possible before they are even put on the computer. With regards to her winning image:

I searched for months to find the perfect house to put on my back. I could have easily Photoshopped it, but having a real house (that was actually made of heavy wood) on my back brings a sense of reality to the image. My body reacts to it correctly because it is there. I feel the heaviness of it. But I love Photoshop because I can bring that little extra surreal touch of adding smoke and editing the colors to a world that I only dream about.
            That her work is based in reality also lends gravity to her images. And that is another reason The Heart and the Heavy is proving to be such a fascinating series: seeing Smith act out her own feelings and emotions is powerful. Not only is it a cathartic experience for her, but intimate as well. Though she describes herself as a “conceptual portrait photographer,” she readily admits that images she has taken of herself are much more personal and meaningful.

                                 Coming Home

            The stories that Smith creates with her images are always beautiful, no matter how dark the subject matter. “Surreal dreams are brought to life and played out. Vintage scenes become timeless. Whether the theme is song interpretation, beauty, feminism or mental illness, I want my photographs to be graceful and moving, revealing the story between the lines.”  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Brie Castell

The deadline for Between Dusk and Dawn has closed. Thank you to all who submitted such imaginative work. And thank you to our wonderful juror, Brie Castell for taking time out of her busy schedule to sift through all of these fantastic images.

Brie is not only the owner of The Castell Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, but also an accomplished photographer and professor. After earning an MFA in photography from East Carolina University, Brie went on to teach at both ECU and Pitt Community College. She is now an adjunct professor of photography at Brevard College. In addition to her daily responsibilities to her gallery and to her students, Brie still manages to find time to produce work of her own. Much of her work has been extensively exhibited across the country in both group and solo exhibitions. We asked Brie some questions about her work and her gallery in order to present a more complete profile of her life and art. 

Emotions play a major role in your work, yet your images are so metaphoric. How do you work through or with an emotion to create a visual representation? Give an example of your process, say, in your series Ritual and Relic. What emotions were channeled into these landscapes?

I can't really explain how I use emotion in my working process, it just is the way I work. I can say I almost always work alone when shooting and almost always use myself in the image. That use of me as model or subject automatically allows me to tap into how I feel and then use that to power and control the process. There's so much post-visualization involved in my process as well, which allows me to further manipulate an image. Ritual & Relic is a body of work created after a long break of art making due to numerous changes in my career. I purposefully decided to veer far off course from my usual photographic content of psychological and personal portraits, and create works of the natural environment around my home – 180 acres of private land. It was a very solitary and quiet experience, and odd for me since I did not have a literal presence within the image as I usually do. This was a personal exercise and examination of how art making is a ritualistic process for myself and how ultimately, and sometimes sentimentally, each piece created inevitably becomes relic – a simple object with or without importance, but fundamentally describing something about a time or a person. Utilizing the wet plate collodion process allowed me to explore even more into the idea of ritual, with the result being an ambrotype – a relic of photographic history.

                                                                    Ritual and Relic

                                                                    Ritual and Relic

Your series REFLECTion takes on a dark tone, both visually and in representation. Tell us a little about this series. What is it about darkness/the dark tones of an image that appeals to you as a photographer?

REFLECTion is an exploration of the complex relationship between self-portrait, time, and memory. Each of these images is a self-portrait with the intent to redefine and separate myself from the “family album”. The album snapshots we collect of ourselves throughout our lifetimes are typically joyous, smiling moments taken during holidays, birthday parties, and celebrations. Often these smiles hide the reality that lies beneath, disguising a sad feeling, an angry memory, or a hidden passion. Too many times we forget that the snapshot is only a split-second – there was a before and an after that is not recorded. Each of my images is a “new” snapshot, one that, while still only a fraction of a second, can encompass and illustrate a broader range of time and emotion. The self-portraits act as mirrors, reflections, and distorted versions of who I am, have been, and will become. They are also an action, a ritual, a reflection on my past to help me better understand and experience who I am as an individual.
This body of work is physically and visually very dark and much of that "look" is a way for me to further communicate the dark or hidden nature of the memory each conveys. These are not exactly happy images. I also feel that there is something unseen, unsaid in that darkness that can allow the viewer to generate his or her own thoughts and ideas.



As owner of The Castell Gallery you must look at the work of emerging and mid-career artists constantly. How do you think that impacts your approach as a juror?

I think I have a good eye and my years of teaching and curating certainly help when jurying a show. I definitely tend to approach these entries the same as I would in the gallery – I look at all works from one entrant, not the images individually, to get an overall impression of his or her consistency, and I also make my selections based on how they will all look together on the walls of a gallery.

                                                                    Ritual and Relic

What is it that you look for when contacted by artists looking for representation?

First, we hope that our submissions guidelines have been followed and that we have been contacted in an appropriate manner. We have a certain aesthetic, so for exhibitions we look for works that will fit within this style as well as being fully realized, editioned appropriately, and works that are thoughtful and which somehow stand out from the rest. We are particularly interested in unique (one of a kind) works, handmade processes, and mixed media with photo-based imagery. We do not discriminate on the basis of education or experience, and show mainly emerging and mid-career artists. My gallery director, Heidi Gruner, and I both have a very similar style and almost always enjoy the same types of work, which certainly makes it easy when deciding on a particular artist! We have slowly started representing artists, so in addition to what we look for in shows, we also seek out artists whose works are relevant in contemporary photography, will continue to grow and mature, and become highly collectible.

What is your pet peeve when an artist contacts you looking for representation?

When an artist comes into the gallery with his/her portfolio in hand without an appointment; an envelope with just a CD and no label on it; but mostly submitting works that are nowhere near what we as a gallery would want to show. Artists should do their homework on which gallery is appropriate for their work in terms of style. Sending us your portfolio when it is the opposite of what we show is insulting because it's clear this artist never took the time to learn about who we are.

The Castell Gallery is the only fine art photography gallery in Asheville with a specific concentration in photography. How has the gallery impacted and influenced the community in the years since it opened? 

Asheville has a rich and vibrant arts culture with numerous galleries and artists, but photography has never had a major presence. When most Asheville galleries (rarely) exhibit photography it is often limited to nature and landscape. This, I believe, has had a negative impact on how the community views photography as an art form. At Castell Photography we strive to show the very finest and challenging works from both emerging and mid-career artists, and works which are an investment and collectible. We've had a huge impact on our community as well as the tourists who visit and work diligently to enlighten these folks on the infinite possibilities of what contemporary photography is and can be. Visitors are often surprised when they find we rarely exhibit local artists, but it is our aim to demonstrate to our community the incredible variety of contemporary photography on a national scale. We offer talks and demonstrations, which are open to the public, and we sometimes offer workshops in specialized processes. We also encourage all of our exhibiting artists to visit Asheville.

The deadline for Between Dusk and Dawn closed last Friday. The results are still pending so be sure to check back soon to see the winners and their submissions.