When an artist hangs a piece of work in a gallery, it’s often with the intent of making a statement, stirring the soul and prompting a conversation. Yet the artist is usually the only one talking.
So when local artist and art instructor J. Damron proposed a true artists’ conversation as a theme for an exhibit at its gallery, the Holland Project jumped at the chance.
“A lot of elements stood out about this idea,” says Sarah Lillegard, Holland’s art director. “A lot of it is that, as a gallery, we want to cater to our audience and demographic [18 and under], but we want to encourage everyone to push the concepts of what art is and how to make it look in a space.”
Damron, who earned a master of fine arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute, has exhibited his work—which includes photography and design-build projects—nationally and internationally. As an adjunct art instructor at Truckee Meadows Community College and Feather River College in Quincy, Calif., Damron strives to make provocative art.
Thus he conceived a show entitled Tête-agrave;-Tête, inviting a collection of artists with a wide range of experiences to respond photographically to a work of his own.
“The concept, as it was described by J., is that it has to do with how photography as an art form involves capturing moments in time,” Lillegard says. “Time is a fleeting thing, and the world is constantly changing. The moments photographers capture today are gone tomorrow.”
“The idea is about creating the possibility that an exhibit can be a generative concept instead of a traditional, static one,” Damron explains, saying that he sought a range of artists, from less-experienced students who seem to have an intuitive grasp of photography to those who’ve been doing photography for years.
Invited artists are Eric Sallender, Kelsey Heil, Michael Chanez, Cecilia Walters, Toshadeva Palani, Alex Rubio, Holly Bethers, Alisha Funkhouser, Manuel Becerra, Megan Berner (an RN&R contributor), Matt Theilen, Dean Burton, Gerald Frandsen, Ian Ruhter, Russell Dudley and Chris Carnel.
When the exhibit opens Friday, April 19, what audiences will find is work by Damron himself, which he will discuss—along with the show’s premise—during his 6:30 p.m. talk. Throughout the course of the three-week exhibit, the invited artists will hang their own photographic responses to his work, so that the exhibit truly evolves, is always changing, like the world photographers themselves are constantly trying to capture. During the closing reception (a Holland Project first) on May 10, gallery visitors will find a completely different exhibit, one which showcases an ongoing artistic conversation.
As part of that effort to create a living, breathing, interactive exhibit, gallery visitors themselves will get to respond, thanks to the 6-feet-by-10-feet walk-in camera obscura that Damron is building for the event. The camera, he says, essentially is a wooden frame with black fabric bellows, and will be positioned to capture the ever-changing street scene outside the Vesta Street gallery’s door.
“A camera obscura is really the most primitive form of camera,” Lillegard explains. “It’s essentially a dark box that people can walk inside. Light comes in through a small hole and an image is reflected, upside-down, off a mirror inside.”
So as Damron takes photos from the gallery, adding those to the exhibit’s conversation, so will the audience, witnessing live the fleeting nature of the photographic medium.
“Even with the restraints of the concept,” Lillegard says, “it feels approachable because photography is so familiar to us all. We all take pictures and look at pictures every day. A camera feels fun and approachable. So we hope to push the initial concepts of art in a way that doesn’t alienate people.”