Monday, August 20, 2012

Sean Kernan

Thank you to everyone who submitted their work to Terrain, The Kiernan Gallery was pleased to have Sean Kernan jury this show. We have asked Sean a few questions about his work.

                                                Among Trees

As recipient of Santa Fe Teacher of the Year Award, your classes are well regarded. Your classes focus on the creative process leading up to making the photograph. What is your stance on the process of art making versus the product of art?

I never studied photography and I never learned how to teach it, so I had to intuit an approach. At the beginning I had been as caught up in the seductive mechanics of cameras and technical considerations as the next person, but still something told me that the heart of photography was vision and that if I could get people to look at what was happening before the photograph was made, the best photograph would happen. Vision and awareness was the place where the work had to begin. And that work was simply to be aware of everything, not just what might make a photograph.

The analogy I came up with was this:
A photographer walks into a room and looks for photographs.
A Secret Service agent walks into a room and looks for doors and windows and places to hide.
A two-year-old walks into a room and looks for nothing, but sees everything.
So the trick is to see like two-year-olds.

The Greek word for Art is techne, so it refers to the making. But there is something that happens before we make anything at all and that is what I started taking students toward. Photographers can wind up caught in a closed circuit of technical matters. They can come to think that a photograph begins with the camera, or perhaps when the image is taken into the software. This would be like a writer beginning from the point of grammar and sentence structure, fonts and page layout. 

In short, I like to start with seeing and awareness and then turn people toward photography to make an image of the full range of what they see. Otherwise they can wind up looking for photographs that just look like other photographs. The trick in photography is to find your own work, not to reflect what you've already seen, isn't it?

                                            The Secret Books

Some of your more recent projects focus on people as subject matter, what was it that drew you to landscape and the creation of Among Trees?

I listen to a lot of music, and I was thinking about how the language of music might function in photography: sound, spaces between sound, loudness and softness, and harmony between these elements. I knew there was a similarity, but I wanted to find them through experience. I might have done it with matchsticks, but somehow trees seemed more appropriate. For one thing, I couldn't place them but had to find them, to let myself be surprised by them. So it became a game. I wrote in the introduction to the book that it was as though there was an invisible ring in the forest, and that if I could find it and put my eye to it all of the elements – trees, sky, land, clouds, and space – would line up and harmonize. But because the ring was invisible I just had to move around in a state of awareness.

                                         Among Trees

Some of your portfolios are shot in color and others are not. What dictates whether a particular project is a color or black and white project and what inspired you to photograph the landscape in black and white?

Black and white was my first love, and since it was what I learned I was not really available to color for a while. My mistake!

What I found was that there is usually something somewhere in the subject that dictates all kinds of things including color. For example, my photos of the Kampala Boxing Club were shot in color because the colors were so much a part of the African light that made it all happen. I tried out a few of those images in black and white, but the color was right. In fact, bright as the colors are, they are also simple, and there aren't too many of them in a given shot. In that sense they carry some of the abstractness of black and white.

                                               Kampala Boxing Club 

                                                                 Kampala Boxing Club

How has your background in theater influenced your still photography?

Surprisingly deeply. Good theater work is always based on being present and aware of what is going on around you. If an actor comes in with a strong idea and pays no attention to others the whole process dies on the spot. But if he or she manages to stay in the moment, wonderful harmonies emerge. The whole thing lifts to another level and everyone – all the actors and eventually the viewers too – can begin to make newer, deeper, and more complex discoveries through that process and then bring them into the work. It's a rising spiral.

And photography, too, arises from what is going on both out there and inside. The richest time in theater is in rehearsal, and photography is like rehearsing and discovering all the time.

                                    The Secret Books

Terrain will be on view at The Kiernan Gallery from August 29-September 29, 2012.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jason Landry

The Kiernan Gallery is thrilled to have Jason Landry jury our upcoming exhibition, Still Life: The Art of Arrangement. We asked him a few questions about his gallery and work:

As owner of Panopticon Gallery, you curate a fair amount of group exhibitions with interesting and diverse themes. How do you think that impacts your approach as a juror for this type of exhibition where you are not seeking out artists, but rather looking through submitted work?
I've spent years looking at work, not only from the perspective of a gallery owner, but also as an avid collector and photographer. It doesn't matter whether it is a portfolio review event, jurying an exhibition, or just meeting with a young student photographer, I love looking at new work and seeing what inspires others to create photographs.

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

I'm looking for something that will WOW and surprise me. I love to see something new or an innovative approach to something old. For instance, I met one photographer who likes to apply film positives to old toy blocks and objects, and recently I met a couple from Finland who are creating contemporary cabinet cards.  In both instances, as soon as I saw them I wanted them, not only for my gallery, but for my collection.

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

My number one pet peeve is when they show up at the gallery unannounced, circle around looking at the show but act like a shark waiting for the appropriate moment to tell me that they are a photographer and can I look at their portfolio right now. Please don't do this. Email me first with a link to your website or 2-3 small JPGS. If I like them, you will hear from me.

You acquired Panopticon a few years ago. What made you want to take over an established gallery built with a specific vision vs. starting your own? Have you felt an obligation to keep with the gallery’s original mission or have you taken the reins, so to speak?

I was working at the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University for a few years as a way to gain some experience in the fine art world. I had been working on a business plan for about five years, knowing that I wanted to open a photography gallery. The executive director at the PRC told me, “When the time is right, you will know”. As luck would have it, the former owner of Panopticon Gallery had reached out to the executive director of the PRC asking him if he knew anyone interested in acquiring a gallery. He told him to speak with me.  After one lunch meeting, the deal was done.                                       

As for vision, the former owner knew that I was interested in creating my own path and stable of artists. Some of his artists stayed on board, but for the most part I have gone out and tracked down talented artists that I wanted to work with.

How has your experience in art business influenced you as an artist?

Well, I wish I could say that I was doing more art myself, but I just haven't found the time. My time now is living vicariously through the successes of my artists, and I'm pretty OK with that.

The deadline for submission to Still Life: The Art of Arrangement is August 20, 2012. Be sure to view the exhibition on opening on October 3, 2012. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Portfolio Showcase Artists: Tommy Matthews

            Man has always had a complicated relationship with the dark. The Kiernan Gallery first looked at this relationship in our show Between Dusk and Dawn earlier this year. In his series The Navigation of Mystery, Tommy Matthews examines the human fascination with darkness. “I started taking real notice of the night and what it did for my senses when I began taking my dog for late night walks in the city. The darkness provided me with an unknown element that was akin to the wilderness.” Matthews executes this otherworldly feel of the night in Sax Man and The Stranger.

                                                      Sax Man

            Other images, such as Held, have a distinctly voyeuristic feel to them, representing the heightened awareness and unique perspective that comes with the darkening of our environment. The vignettes in this series are linked by their use of shadow to make pedestrians faceless and sinister, and city streets alien and menacing. The photographic process that Matthews uses is important to the work. “I use an array of different cameras. Whatever the photographic job entails, I’ll choose the best single tool.” The many variables of night photography demand an array of options. Matthews scans his film negatives, which compresses the tonal range of the images. This adds to the dream-like feel that he seeks to create.

                                                      The Stranger

            Matthews draws inspiration from literature and cinema, with some of his favorite books and movies informing the tone of his work. “Stylistically, I feel that film noir left an impression of atmosphere and mood on me that I carry when photographing.” Nonetheless, Matthews sees exploration of the unknown to be the overarching theme of this collection. That innate human desire to discover connects him with his audience.

One thing that our world has had from the beginning of time is a frontier. A space of unknown. However our society today has no frontier for the common man. Aside from the darkness of space and the bottom of the ocean, we have lost worlds in which our imaginations can truly roam. For me, the night is a frontier by which the common place is erased and reformatted.
            And as a young photographer in an art world that is rapidly changing, Matthews is enjoying the challenge of getting his work seen by the art community. “For myself, success in photography means living and breathing photography while managing to feed you and your family. It’s a struggle without a doubt, but a beautiful struggle.” He certainly seems to be on his way.

                                                    En Route

Images from Tommy Matthews’ series The Navigation of Mystery were on view in The Kiernan Gallery from June 6 to July 14, 2012. They can be seen on our website under the Portfolio Showcase link.