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Light Factory 7th Annuale: Focus on Quiet Moments
Picture by Micah Cash
April 28, 2015
Photo caption: Micah Cash's "Norris" (above), Beth Lilly's "You Can Still Love What You Don't Have" (below).
Some of life’s most contemplative moments, however fleeting, are found alone on a road, as Charles Bukowski wrote in his poem Nirvana, “on the way to somewhere.” Passing remnants of civilization along an asphalt lick a couple hundred miles long brings about a “curious feeling” as the poem goes, a feeling of contentedness, “that everything is beautiful there, and that it would stay beautiful there.” One of the beautiful things about photography is the medium allows for the capture of the world as it is, unaffected. The current exhibition at Plaza Midwood’s Light Factory, their 7th Annuale (running through June 6), juried by their former chief curator Dennis Kiel, features photography that does an impeccable job of capturing that quiet moment in time, where our connection as humans to the world around us is reduced to the simple daydream.
Micah Cash’s Norris is one of the first photos the very full Light Factory gallery space offers upon entering. Cash is an MFA grad from the University of Connecticut and frequently featured artist in publications like 10 Journal, Light Leaked, F-Stop Magazine, Dotphotozine, Another Place and LensCulture. “My photographs bear witness,” says Cash, “to the social narratives within landscapes altered in the name of progress, utility, and communal welfare.” These altered landscapes are often home to dilapidated industrial sprawl. Norris is no different. Here, rust, concrete and white water combine to make a slightly disorientating two-toned abstract composition — one that smartly disguises its subject — turning a dam outlet into a pure expression of the relationship between space and color. Norris’s companions in Cash’s series Dangerous Waters share its sharp composition and subdued mood. Pickwick Landing, Downstream features a rocky embankment struck against a deeply overcast sky with a long vacant billboard, now iron skeleton and not much else, serving as an indomitable focal point. The empty billboard’s rectangular form squares itself center in the picture frame, creating an extremely static composition. But not to a fault. Rather, Pickwick Landing, Downstream’s lack of visual movement just serves to accentuate the thoughtful dreary, cold humid tone. A tone that more than likely mimics the dismal weather on the day the photograph was taken.
As the exhibition continues through the gallery space, each artist respectively trades subjects — all focusing on humanity’s unique relationship to the world around us, but each taking turns shifting the lens from the individual to the surrounding environment.
Beth Lilly’s series, Lost in Thought, plays a great role in creating this dynamic across the exhibitions entirety. Lilly, a Charlotte native who received her MFA in Photography from Georgia State University, is coming off an impressive run of exhibitions in places like New Mexico Museum of Art, the Center for Fine Art Photography, the Zuckerman Museum, and Whitespace Gallery in Atlanta. Lost in Thought features candid photographs of drivers and passengers alike, lost in thought, mid-transit. At the most basic level there is a wonderful contrast intrinsic to Lilly’s development process. These brief moments in the lives of Lilly’s unsuspecting subjects are captured as quickly as they happen, but the process by which Lilly prints each piece is anything but instant. Each is printed with pigment inks on kozo — a mulberry paper typically used for traditional Japanese sumi ink drawings. Kozo is very thin and incredibly delicate, often requiring wetting or extensive preparation before it can be printed on. The results are photographs that take on the fragility of their medium. Lilly builds a beautiful harmony between the fleetingness of the moment captured and the etherealness of the dappled surface on which the image now lives. The subjects, often slightly blurred by motion or soft focus, are caught in complete aloneness with themselves, which leaves each piece with a curious, almost unsettling, mood.
The 7th Annuale’s other offerings, like local photographer Carl R. Wilson’s window reflections, fit nicely with one another thematically. Wilson’s three large format photos monopolize an entire wall of The Light Factory’s small space. These photographs feature familiar Charlotte neighborhood locales captured in the window reflections of local businesses. Through long exposure and clever manipulation of lighting, Wilson creates colorful and complex compositions that play lightly with visual depth and layers of perception. Diana Bloomfield, an adept regional photographer whose work has been included in the publications like Pinhole Journal, The World Journal of Post-Factory Photography, The HAND Magazine, North Carolina Literary Review; and SxSE (South x Southeast) is also featured here. Bloomfield’s piece Wading from her Figurative series, a photograph which features a lone young woman in a blue dress rinsing her hands in a stream, is particularly haunting — in a similar fashion to Lilly’s work — in that the audience is confronted with a subject’s quiet aloneness. The pairing of these two artists in the latter half of the exhibit is a particular high note for the show.
What the 7th Annuale lacks in excitement it makes up for in depth and emotional tension. The collective tone of the show is a quiet one, a reposeful sermon on our affect on the world around us, and the world’s influence in return. Whether the lens is pointed out ahead, toward the horizon, or back at us, the resulting photographs from this collection of artists are nothing short of reflective, contemplative and challenging.