By Larry W. Moore, curator, JCM Gallery & Grand Gallery
Photography has never been more ubiquitous, with millions of pictures taken every day around the world. Out of all of those images, what makes a photograph stand out? What makes it art? One of the best ways to answer that question is to view the very finest photography, and that’s what the Louisville Photo Biennial is all about. Louisville’s premier photographic festival returns this year for its 12th installment, having grown from a handful of galleries in its namesake city into a nationally recognized regional event taking place in Louisville, Central Kentucky and Southern Indiana from Sept. 9 through Nov. 14.
Embracing local, national and international photography, this festival offers workshops, competitions, public discussions and exhibitions at more than 50 venues celebrating artistic excellence in the medium. The Photo Biennial represents a cooperative effort among regional museums, galleries, universities and other public places. This festival gives the public an opportunity to learn about photography from historical and traditional images to present day contemporary work and from the global to the local, opening up meaningful dialogue and helping to bridge understanding in our diverse world. You can find the full list of venues and activities at www.louisvillephotobiennial.com.
This year, three of those galleries are right here in Frankfort, and the shows they’re presenting offer a great sampling of the range of fine art photography. Starting out with Capital Gallery of Contemporary Art (314 Lewis St.), Frankfort’s long established destination for fine art, owner Ellen Glasgow is presenting work, including two distinctive artists.
Scott MacDiarmid is a photographer based in San Jose, California, specializing in nature, landscape and wildlife imagery, and his exquisite composition and attention to detail place him firmly in the tradition of great western landscape artists. Lexington artist Mary Rezny’s series “Sculptural Garden” is also inspired by nature, in this case her favorite flowers — the lotus and the orchid.
Each photographic “sculpture” is many different detailed photographs of the same flower taken over time. The photographs are then layered and reassembled with variable thicknesses and dimensions. Differing in sizes, finishes and complexity, each photographic sculpture becomes a study of time and perspective, form and texture.
Appearing at the Jane Chancellor Moore Gallery (located in Expree Credit Union, 100 Moore Drive), Lexington artist Melissa T. Hall also creates her work through the manipulation of photographs. In her case, the process starts by shooting on location — she favors abandoned buildings and other derelict scenes — using models, props and costumes, then digitally editing and combining her photos to create surreal, fantastic, and often startling, imagery.
She then applies paint and wax to the surface of her one-of-a-kind finished pieces. For the biennial, she is exhibiting her series “PANDEMIA,” created in response to and as an escape from the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, turning her “turmoil and unease into visual ideas.” Hall’s photos are accompanied by poetry by Georgetown author Missy Brownson, written in response to the artwork.
There will be an opening reception for this exhibition on Friday, Sept. 17, from 5-7 p.m. A poetry reading by Brownson will take place at noon on Saturday, Oct. 16.
Though not officially part of the biennial, Hall and Brownson’s companion series “MEMENTO MORI” will be on display throughout October at the Paul Sawyier Public Library.
Participating in the biennial for the first time, the Grand Gallery (inside the Grand Theatre at 308 St. Clair) is excited to present “BEING IN HAVANA: Esta es La Habana” by Connecticut photographer John Sarsgard. Sarsgard specializes in portrait and street photography, and describes himself as “an amateur anthropologist. I photograph everyday life and make portraits of people who interest me. People and their situations, creations, places and expressions are for me often beautiful and ordinary at the same time.”
For several years he visited Havana, Cuba, capturing images of the everyday life of the city. “Life on the street in Havana includes more than getting from one place to another. People work, socialize, argue, dine, shop, flirt and make and listen to music. The street for many is an extension of the living room. I want to show you what los habaneros see as they go about life in their city.”
While the show includes six vibrant color photographs, it primarily consists of 25 black and white handmade platinum prints, which Sarsgard creates using traditional photographic printing methods, “an archival medium that reflects the timeless Havana I am seeking to portray.”
This series is being exhibited for the first time anywhere, and Sarsgard will be at the gallery 5-7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29, to talk about Havana, his art and process. Meanwhile, you can find him on the web at www.johnsarsgard.com.
Larry W. Moore is the curator at Jane Chancellor Moore Gallery and the Grand Gallery.