The Sensory Experience: Photography Exhibits and our Digital World

The Internet has been a great resource for so many things. A fabulous tool for artists such as myself to do research and sometimes find inspiration. But it’s generally one or two dimentional. What you see on-line is only a virtual reality. Of course, not everything needs to be seen in person, but when it comes to art, there is no question that it is best represented and experienced in our four-dimensional world.  More times than not, I've seen artwork online that didn’t catch my eye or excite me very much, and when the piece was physically in front of me, I was much more impressed, or even completely blown away; not only by the physical piece of artwork but by the experience as a whole. Yet, there are many art buyers today who never set foot in a gallery; and this is why I think they’re losing out…

Let me tell you a bit about one of my favorite photographers: Sebastião Salgado. Up until last year, I had only viewed his work on-line. To me, he was the god of black and white photography. From subject matter, to his images' tones, textures, and lighting were nothing short of heavenly. I was fortunate to have visited the Genesis exhibit at Leica Gallery in San Francisco; a truly unforgettable experience. Although Salgado's images look amazing on my desktop, there is nothing more captivating than seeing his large scale photographic prints on the gallery wall. The moment I set eyes on the first piece of this exhibit, a warm fluttery feeling overcame me like when falling in love. Salgado draws us into the moment and invites us to stand beside him. And even though the photographs were black and white, they were vivid and I could imagine all the color behind them. I could see the aqua waters of the Galapagos and the lush green leaves, the golden browns of the Sahara and the bright blue skies. It was at that moment that I realized that ‘color' doesn’t always mean what we think it means; Salgado captures the soul of everyone and everything he photographs in the most enchanting way. He creates the strongest connection between his audience and the experience that was once his alone and he shares it. Looking back, the digital screen was a flattening misrepresentation of his tangible printed images, just as my description of experiencing the exhibit could never do it justice. To top it off, the gallery displayed a giant sized 18 x 28 inch photo book of Genesis (which could have been mine for a mere four thousand US dollars).  I once heard Salgado's work being referred to as “biblical”, and after attending this particular exhibit I finally understood the true meaning of that reference. 

 Looking through Sabastião Salgado's book "Genesis". A marine iguana from Galápagos; one of my favorite photographs. 

Looking through Sabastião Salgado's book "Genesis". A marine iguana from Galápagos; one of my favorite photographs. 

From biblical to saintly; I recently visited a very special exhibit at the LUMA gallery in Chicago. “Searching for Jehanne, the Joan of Arc Project” by renown photographer/artist, Susan Aurinko. Taking time out of her busy schedule, she offered to give a few of us a personal tour of her exhibit, a project which had been years in the making.  I thought I knew the work I was about the see, (being that some images were on-line, and I was also familiar with the history behind Susan's project) but that was not the case all. As we walked into the gallery, I was immediately taken away by powerful images set in the most beautiful ornate frames. The heavenly sound of a church choir permeating the show, stemming from a short artistic video installation she created from classic film footage, added a sense of sacredness. The combination of her artwork and this culminating choice of sound echoing in the room brought me back to when I was a young girl sitting in a pew of my town's opulent 1870s Catholic Church; I would listen to similar music and stare at the paintings on the ceilings of archangels, fluffy clouds, dark skies and fire. The 'Searching for Jehanne' exhibit evoked certain childhood memories and emotional angst of when I first learned of the tragic life of Saint Joan of Arc. A story I feel is overly perturbatious for such young children to hear. We toured the exhibit while Susan explained in detail all the research, time, and effort it took for each and every piece in the collection. Among several aspects of her project, she described her travels through France with her camera; walking the paths once walked by Joan of Arc herself. Susan’s description of the process was a powerful ‘goosebumps’ addition to seeing the physical artworks. We learned so much about her process, right down to her choosing the unique grey/blue color of paint on the walls; which, was one of many aesthetics that tied everything in so gloriously. 

 Standing outside at Loyola University Museum of Art where "Searching for Jehanne - The Joan of Art Project" is on exhibit until Oct 21, 2017.

Standing outside at Loyola University Museum of Art where "Searching for Jehanne - The Joan of Art Project" is on exhibit until Oct 21, 2017.

Although I have yet to have a 'solo' exhibit, I've been working towards it since moment zero a couple years ago - a long, independent, sometimes painful, yet exciting process.  If anyone knows me, they know that I will not exhibit anything less than wild. I continue to share bits on the internet which is a great way to gauge the effect of my artwork. Feedback from other photographers, curators, and jurors from open-call submissions can sometimes influence me but I never compromise my creative vision. My self-portraiture and nature photography continue to be popular among my audience; unsettling them with conflicting emotions, at the same time fulfilling them with the familiarity of it all. Personal emails received are a clear indication that my artwork is making an impact and that people want to see more. Being an artist is a blessing and a gift, and nothing we do is worthwhile if we do not share the best of ourselves, in the very best way, with the rest of world. For most photographers, there is nothing more rewarding than completing a body of work and having it hung on a gallery wall for their audience to experience the full depth and meaning behind it. The physical gallery MUST live on.