Pictures at an Exhibition
For the record, I am shamelessly borrowing the title from an 1874 piano composition performed by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. The story goes that Mussorgsky attended an art exhibition and was inspired to set the exhibit to music. In 1971, the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer performed their interpretation of Mussorgsky’s composition under the same title. So, I don’t feel too bad about using the title yet one more time. But my use of the title isn’t about an exhibition, it is the exhibition.
The exhibit at the Dubuque Museum of Art is titled Remnants of the West: Edward Curtis and Mark James. It ran from September 1 to January 7, 2018. By all accounts, the presentation and exhibit was excellent with my photographs contrasting nicely with Curtis, yet complimenting his work in a timeless manner. We are separated by about 100 years. It is interesting to consider that many of my photographs, visually, seem to reveal the absence of the North American Indian, the very thing Curtis sought to document and preserve. It is revealed in the architecture of the photograph. Susan Sontag in her book On Photography said “What renders a photograph surreal is its irrefutable pathos as a message from time past…”
Due credit must be given to Stacy Peterson, the curator at the museum. In pairing my photographs with those of Curtis, Stacy took particular interest in the similarity of light and form. A striking example is the Curtis photograph titled Blanket Weaver – Navaho. A woman is weaving a blanket while sitting at her loom which rests against a cottonwood tree. A large branch reaches to the ground. My photograph, Poudre River Branch, shares the same architecture. It’s almost as if the woman and her loom simply vanished leaving behind the artifact of nature. This transcendent aspect is revealed throughout the exhibit.
I want to extend my appreciation to family, friends, and the exceedingly professional staff at the museum for making this exhibit possible. It is truly an honor to have my name and photographs associated with such a renowned photographer as Edward Curtis. Going forward, the Remnants of the West exhibit is now touring to other venues! I have also put together a solo exhibit titled Through a Pinhole that features strictly pinhole landscape photos. And then there is the Edwin James Bicentennial Project gaining momentum.