I take it for granted that rural artists are there for each other. While alone time is important for doing our craft, it is also essential that we interact, share ideas, and have support. I am getting involved with FEAT (Eastern Kentucky Foothills Eco-Agri Tourism) in a five county area, allowing me to meet other artists in the region and improve my skills -- including a better web page as soon as I can! In rural northeastern Kentucky, regional training in presentation, web design, and sales strategies can make a huge difference.
But for the twelve years I have been doing photography, I have relied on such opportunities as museum visits, lectures at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and obituaries (!) to help me learn more about what I like in a photo and why I like it. (How to do what I like on purpose takes constant trial and error.)
So my plan today is to tell about a few of these learning occasions, as I call them.
The current exhibit at the Kentucky Folk Art Center, in Morehead, KY, is "Krause & Spellman: scenes from a lost america" (until March 31.) These artists are a couple, each painting with a distinct style. Their canvases feel photographic to me, however -- views of lives lived in a specific places. I enjoyed the vivid colors and the variety of the faces. This couple has a lot of work to share, and that's what it takes to build a body of work!
Last spring the KFAC hosted a wonderful traveling photography exhibit called "This Great Nation Will Endure: photographs of the Great Depression from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum." WOW. The greats were represented -- Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, among others -- and it was thrilling to experience them all in one room. (Note: the link to this exhibit is not direct. Click on the first listing that comes up, and make sure you are seeing it at not greater than 100%.)
Farther from home is a favorite museum of mine, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) with their rich photographic collection. The exhibit I saw this fall featured a single female photographer who died in her early twenties -- Francesca Woodman. Her work was totally different than something I would do, and she worked mainly in black and white instead of color, which is my preference. Even so it was riveting to see what her choices were and how skillful she was. And what a hard worker. The exhibit continues until February 20.
As for an obituary example, the most recent one is for Eve Arnold. It is embarrassing that she had to die before I learned about her work. And she was 99! I look forward now to finding some of her dozen or so books in the library. She was small in size but had a large impact, including in 1957 being one of the first women members of Magnum, the premium international photo agency. Here is one link, and here the NYTimes obit.
Since I have been spending time recently thinking about my photo goals for 2012, I particularly like this quote of hers: “Themes recur again and again in my work. I have been poor and I wanted to document poverty; I had lost a child and I was obsessed with birth; I was interested in politics and I wanted to know how it affected our lives; I am a woman and I wanted to know about women.”
I haven't lost a child, but, as Quakers would phrase it, her words speak to my condition.