Hamilton (Ohio) – The rise of the camera phone makes photography arguably the most accessible, democratic form of visual art available.
Yet the new exhibition on display at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts – The Land and That Which Lives on it/Unusual Character, part of the sixth FotoFocus Biennial – demonstrates lens-based art is more thoughtful than a typical selfie.
Curator Kent Krugh put it another way.
“Most people you know or I know have two thousand, four thousand, ten thousand photos on their phones,” he said. “But most people don’t make artistic photographs and don’t have an idea how to do that.
“I wanted to honor some of these artist photographers with a high-level, high-quality display of their work. I’m very proud and very happy to share this work with the community.”
It’s been a long time coming.
Originally planned for 2020, the pandemic prevented the full Biennial experience. While FotoFocus generously honored its financial commitment to the many exhibition sites that planned to be part of the program, actual shows shifted online or shuttered entirely.
Krugh – who first processed photos in a darkroom built in his mother’s bathroom at age 11 – had a 42-year career in radiation therapy. But all the while kept his eye behind a camera.
“By nature I’m curious and by nature I’m experimental,” he said. “When I look at the world there’s another reality beyond what I’m seeing. I knew FotoFocus was looking to expand and I knew the Fitton Center could not be beat for displaying photos, so I came to Cat.”
“Kent has had a solo show and regularly contributes to our group shows,” said Cathy Mayhugh, director of exhibitions. “I trusted he would bring us something good and he trusted us that we would provide a good place – the right space and lighting - to share his vision.”
The result a wide variety of international work spread through four galleries.
The first-floor Monument Gallery houses Unusual Character: Portraits of the Modern Eye. Artists from Seoul, South Korea, Los Angeles, Washington state and Wyoming, Ohio, present a variety of ways to look at people. Images vary in both subject matter and print process to create a mix of modern and classic-looking images.
In addition, the Creation Station just off the gallery houses Caludia Kunin’s 3-D portrait animation, complete with old-school blue-and-red-lens glasses to get the full effect.
The second part of the exhibition - The Land and That Which Lives Upon It: Contemporary Photography and the Curious Nature of the Planet - lives on the second floor.
The Riverview Gallery highlights the work of recently deceased Cincinnati photographer Tim Freeman, who shot digital images, but made hand-coated prints with alternative processes like palladium/platinum and gum bichromate.
The Bever West Gallery features contrasting and complimentary images - from closeups created via microscope to sweeping vistas captured from several hundred feet above by drone. From big-sky nightscapes created by long exposure to filmic landscapes to primates captured in near-human poses.
The Bever North Gallery displays somewhat more abstract photography. The centerpiece is a 35-panel cyanotype representation of a tree. Artist Rachel Reisert will teach a FotoFocus workshop on the cyanotype process - which was invented in 1842 – at the Fitton Center Nov. 5. Photographers from San Francisco, Virginia and North Carolina round out the gallery.
The Fitton Community Gallery houses a third part of the show - Acknowledge Reveal Disclose. Curated by noted Cincinnati portrait artist Michael Wilson – he’s photographed everyone from BB King to Philip Glass, from Audra MacDonald to Lyle Lovett - Acknowledge Reveal Disclose runs through Nov. 4.
If some those names make you think Wilson has a musical background, you’d be correct. He’s an accidental photographer by way of the brass section. He saved $800 to buy a French horn, but decided playing was not his path. So he loaned his brother $600 to buy a guitar and used the remaining money to buy himself a camera.
“My strongest interest is the connection that can develop between a photographer and a subject,” Wilson said. “I was sort of hoping to broaden my horizon and reach out to some of the people working in new and traditional ways. It’s fun for me because I’m getting to meet some of these photographers who are carrying the torch.”
Acknowledge Reveal Disclose celebrates 21 photographers – mostly from the southwestern Ohio region – and 50 to 60 of their photos culled from nearly 200 images.
“It feels like a potluck dinner I’ve thrown, as compared to a chef-created meal,” Wilson said. “We’re having this picnic, bring something. If people are bringing all this to the potluck, I’m going to enjoy a little bit of everything.”
After Acknowledge Reveal Disclose, the Community Gallery hosts student artists from Badin, Hamilton and Oak Hills high schools - as well as Butler Tech School of the Arts - for an exhibition inspired by Alyssa Salomon’s work with trail cameras (some of which is on display in the Bever North Gallery).
Viewing the Land/Unusual Character/Acknowledge is free and open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 10-5 Fridays. Gallery spaces also are open when other shows and events are happening in the building.
There will be a free Gallery Opening Celebration from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, featuring an Artists’ Chat in the theater at 6 p.m. prior to the Fitton Showstoppers performance of Bravissimo Broadway.
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
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