Suzanne Opton Lecture Review


Amelia Hooning, former curatorial intern and current UW Photomedia student, wrote this beautiful review of the Suzanne Opton lecture:

Last night, I saw photographer Suzanne Opton speak about her work at the Henry Art GallerySoldier, her most well-known body of work, depicts young men who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. The portraits are simple yet evocative, each showing only a head resting on the ground. In some images, the soldier confronts the camera. In others, he closes his eyes or looks away. But in each there is a haunting, ambiguous quality. Although we know that these soldiers are the survivors—those who returned—the images make us wonder: How alive are they? What have those eyes seen? What are those eyes hiding?

Opton spoke of the muteness of the images—the way the soldier just stares, abstracted from his body, no clues given by gesture or body language. She spoke of the trauma of war, the experiences that no outsider could possibly understand and that each soldier, on his own, struggles to confront. Here she quoted Dostoevsky:

“Every man has some reminiscences which he would not tell to everyone, but only to his friends. He has others which he would not reveal even to his friends, but only to himself, and that in secret. But finally there are still others which a man is even afraid to tell himself, and every decent man has a considerable number of such things stored away.”

She spoke of the suggestiveness of photographs, their power to communicate those experiences that exist at the point where words fail. These photographs do not explain the experiences of the soldiers, but they convey the magnitude of these experiences and the haunting quiet that surrounds them. Opton explained that, on some level, she fears words—she fears that in repeating the stories of these soldiers, something disappears.

And yet she spoke and nothing disappeared. Sure, she told their stories, but more than anything else, she told her own story. Her voice often quivering slightly, she spoke of soldiers who had told her stories they had never even told their wives. She spoke of the way she became a vessel for their stories—the way she, as a stranger, could take on the weight of those stories.

By the end of the lecture, my heart ached—not with sadness or with grief, but with everything all at once. Afterwards, I pulled myself together and got my nerve up to go and talk to her. I asked her about her work in relation to that of Joseph Beuys and mentioned how my own photographs deal with personal traumas. And she reached out to me, handing me her card and telling me to send her my images—the very sort of openness and generosity that a student always hopes for, but never expects.

The next day—today—I went to see the physical work itself at Platform Gallery. The images were massive, beautifully printed, every last detail of the face intimately legible. I stood before one of the prints, as close as I could, and it felt so real, so tactile. On the young man’s face, there was a small scab so tangible that I felt I could just reach out and gently brush it away. But I couldn’t. An unspeakable divide separates us from these faces—faces whose surfaces are right before us, but that we cannot touch or feel, literally or figuratively.

After all is said and done, they are still there, just beyond the picture plane, while we are still here, standing before them. But something has changed. We have changed.

 

Want to read more of Amelia’s work? Here is her blog.

Want to write up a review of a program or exhibit at the Henry and have it featured on Hankblog? Send it to hankblog@henryart.org

Suzanne Opton’s The Billboard Project

Suzanne Opton is giving a lecture at the Henry tonight on her Soldier and Many Wars photographic series. These photographs were also part of her Billboard Project. As part of this project, Opton installed billboard across Colorado to much controversy. Here are some articles on the controversy and Opton’s response.

NPR: Suzanne Opton describing her Billboard Project in 100 words or less.

The New York Times:  The media conglomerate building owners “canceled her contract last week, having decided that the pictures sent a confusing and inappropriate message”

“Our only concern is that people driving on highways at 55 or 60 miles an hour, seeing an image like this popping out of nowhere, it could be disturbing.”

Opton’s response: “They may look troubled,” she continued, “but it’s not easy to be a soldier. Why should that be hidden from us?”

The Guardian (U.K.): “Although the artworks neither display images of violence nor are gruesome, the media company that owns the billboards said it feared pedestrians and motorists would mistake them for images of war dead.”

Susan Opton: “It’s like you see someone opposite of you with their head on the pillow. We see our lovers and our children in that pose. They look like the heads of fallen statues, and they afford the viewer an intimate look at the face of the young person whose life is at risk, and that was the point.”

You can view the photographs at Platform Gallery. 114 Third Avenue South, Seattle; Hours: Wednesday to Friday, 11AM to 5:30PM, Saturday, 11AM to 5:00PM

Artist Lecture: Suzanne Opton

Friday, February 3rd
7-8pm
Henry Auditorium
FREE for Students, Henry Members, and UW Staff & Faculty | $5 General Audience

Suzanne will discuss her Soldier and Many Wars photographic series. The Soldier series features young, active-duty soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, whose photographs were presented as billboards in nine American cities from 2008 to 2010.Many Wars presents portraits of veterans from American wars over the past 70 years, most of whom are in treatment for combat trauma.

Suzanne Opton was the recipient of a 2009 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum; Cleveland Museum; Library of Congress; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich; and the Portland Art Museum, among others. Opton teaches portraiture at the International Center of Photography.

Reserve / buy your tickets HERE.

 

SURFACE: CONTEMPORARY WET PLATE COLLODION PORTRAITURE @ Photo Center NW

Daniel Carrillo, Cable Griffith, 2010

surFACE: Contemporary Wet Plate Collodion Portraiture is an exhibition featuring works by five contemporary artists that bask in 19th Century photographic processes. Represented are wet plate collodion tintypes and ambrotypes which have been set apart throughout history by their mysterious and haunting beauty. These artists each focus their portraiture on unique subjects including artists, cowboys, skaters, surfers and soldiers.

The exhibition is on display now at Photo Center NW.

Read more here.

Photo Center NW City Panorama Call for Entries

As a way to incorporate art into everyday life, to beautify the city, and to make new perspectives and ideas available to all, the City Panorama class seeks photographic artwork that will accomplish these objectives while increasing the visibility of the photographic arts in King County.

SUBMIT YOUR WORK to the City Panorama project. Photographs will be printed on 8’ x 2’ wooden panels and will remain installed in Metro shelters for up to 10 years. Submissions will be reviewed and discussed by students in the fall 2011 course City Panorama, and submitted to a panel of jurors from Metro and Photo Center NW. From the submissions, 100 images will be chosen for installation. 

HOW TO ENTER: Follow the instructions outlined on the form: INFO & ENTRY FORM – CITY PANORAMA 2011. Send the completed entry form with your labeled CD and payment (if submitting more than 2 images) to Photo Center NW, 900 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122.

DEADLINE: Must be received by Wednesday November 23, 5 pm.

The City Panorama Project started when Dale Cummings, a representative of King County Metro approached Photo Center NW in the spring of 2010 looking for a way to expand on past mural projects in Metro bus shelters through photography. A grant from 4Culture was awarded for this project in summer 2010. Over 100 photo murals were installed in in the first half of 2010, and the project was a resounding success. The project enters its second year with another grant from 4Culture during the 2011-12 academic year. As a way to incorporate art into everyday life, to beautify the city, and to make new perspectives and ideas available to all, the City Panorama class seeks photographic artwork that will accomplish these objectives while increasing the visibility of the photographic arts in King County.

Winning Mural from City Panorama 2010 by Christopher Bachmann


			

Save your spot for our ‘Digital Eye’ tour!

Image for cover: Wendy McMurdo. Helen, Backstage, Merlin Theatre (The Glance). 1995. Pigmented inkjet print. Courtesy of the artist.

We still have space left for our Curator Led Tour of The Digital Eye. Join Henry Director Sylvia Wolf, curator of the The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age and author of the recent book by the same name, for a unique look at digital innovations in photographic practice.

This is our last scheduled curator tour before the show’s closing on September 25, 2011. Tickets are available at henryart.org/tickets. Students and Henry Members get in for FREE and tickets are $5 for the general public.

The tour is this Thursday, September 8, at 7:00PM. You have less than 48 hours to ensure you don’t miss out on this opportunity. Tickets sales will continue through noon on Thursday. Any remaining tickets will be made available at the door.

Get Ready for a Digital September

We’re in the final month of The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age, but we still have plenty of fun programs and events remaining.

Paul Berger. Seattle Subtext: Front and Back Cover. 1982. Gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the artist.

This Friday, September 2, is Gallery Talk: Paul Berger. Photographer and exhibiting artist Paul Berger will give an informal gallery talk on his work and the impact of photography and digital imaging on contemporary visual culture. Berger’s photographic work has always involved multiple images in structured sequences, sometimes with text. This interest in sequence and narrative transitioned in the early 1980’s to an interest in digital manipulation of electronic imagery, leading to the development of a series of digital imaging classes within the University of Washington’s photography programs in the mid-80s. Please RSVP here by the end of tomorrow (September 1st)! This program is FREE for Henry Members and Students and $5 for the general public.
And check out this recent The Stranger article “Everyday Life for Sentient Beings,” featuring Paul Berger. Beef up on your artist history, like his roots in Seattle and the beginning of his art technique, before you come listent to his talk on Friday. There’s also plenty of mention of The Digital Eye and its headlining artists and works.

Next Thursday, September 8, is our final Curator Led Tour for this exhibition. Join Henry Director Sylvia Wolf, curator of the The Digital Eye: Photographic Art in the Electronic Age and author of the recent book by the same name, for a unique look at digital innovations in photographic practice. We still have some spaces left! This event is FREE for Henry Members and Students and $5 for the general public. Purchase you tickets or reserve your space here!

Jason Salavon. Every Playboy Centerfold, The 1970s. 2002. Pigmented inkjet print. Collection of Timothy and Leslie Fichtner. Courtesy of the artist and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.

Explore the intersection of art, technology, and geography in this project workshop with Digital Eye exhibiting artist Jason Salavon. Participants will use their smartphones and digital cameras to gather photographs and location data, tracking their paths in time and space as they explore and document the area around the UW campus. Using geolocation technology, and a few other tools, participants will reconvene with Salavon to cross reference and assemble the visual and location data into visual representations of their activity. Click here to read more about Field Work with Jason Salavon, on Wednesday, September 14 at the Henry. This event is held in partnership with Photo Center NW. The fee is $55 for Henry and PCNW Members and $65 for the general public. Register at PCNW.org.

And we have even more Jasan Salavon for you! In conjunction with his workshop, the artist will give a lecture on September 15 at the Henry. Join Henry exhibiting artist Jason Salavon (The Digital Eye) for a talk about his work exploring topics ranging from population statistics and intelligent software to the evolution of soft-core pornography. Using software processes of his own design, Jason Salavon generates and reconfigures masses of communal material to present new perspectives on the familiar. Read more. This lecture is open to the public and is also part of a photography workshop, on September 14th. This program is FREE for Henry and PCNW Members and Students and $5 for the general public. Find out how to register at PCNW.org.

And your final opportunity to bid adieu to The Digital Eye is on September 25th when the show will be closing.