New Photo Show at FAVA Engages
The winning photo may seem somewhat familiar — a lonely sepia print of a fence, a field and a little cloud. Beautifully composed, it is stark and lovely, but possesses little in the way of ingenuity.
The FAVA gallery’s 26th annual Six-State Photography Show opened on March 5. Works by 60 photographers from Ohio and certain surrounding states were admitted into the show. Besides the Best in Show photo, “Snow, Fence, and Cloud” by Richard Wolf, there were five runner-up Juror’s Awards, two Luciano Awards for Architecture and one Kirtz/Van Nortwick Award for Composition with the Human Figure. The juror was Ronald L. Palmer, professor emeritus at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
It is impossible to describe a general theme for the competition. The photographs ranged widely, from the muted traditionalism of the winner to vibrant posed color, gritty realism, black-and-white nature photographs and various mixed media presentations.
Certain photographs stand out, winners and non-winners alike. Nina Barcellona submitted a set of three, one of which won a Juror’s Award. Barcellona seemed to favor the heavily posed portraits in vibrant color. Her winning photo was of a wild-eyed blonde holding two Barbies, but the one above it would really catch your eye: a prom queen puking right toward the camera while a boy holds her hair. It is probably one of the funniest, most disgusting, most unforgettable photographs one could ever see.
Another Juror’s Award winner, Scott Love, entered a piece titled “Chas in the Dark Suit.” This magenta-toned portrait of a surly boy in a chair is initially unspectacular, but on closer inspection, the evil, raw and rude expression on the boy’s face dominates the frame.
Darlene Krato, an elderly woman who was viewing the show, remarked, “I can see that child as being one of those who burnt the churches in Alabama.”
Krato’s preference was for one of the winners of the Luciano Award, a lovely piece called “Blue Umbrella” by Isaac Lewin. It is a digital photograph of a deep blue umbrella against a bright yellow wall in Italy. The thick, blurred lines make it look more like an impressionist painting than a photograph. There are several other photographs that use this or a similar technique, but none are quite as effective as Lewin’s.
Several of the other Juror’s Awards were given to unexpected pieces. Eleanor Helper’s “Sunshine and Shadow II” is a detailed but bland industrial image in sickly hues of orange, blue and green.
Likewise, Roy Jenkins received a Juror’s Award for a blurred purple-pink photo of a wild-haired rock star. The blurring may have been creatively done, but once again the image itself is not particularly original. There are, in fact, two other rock star or punk photographs in the show.
Richard Jurus’s “M” which won the Kirtz/Van Nortwick Award, was similarly unexceptional. It shows a female nude in a titillating but uncomfortable position by a window. The light through that window, however, was beautifully captured.
My preference was for two digital prints by Britt Friedman, neither of which won awards. One depicts autumn leaves lying in water and the other shows perhaps 20 water striders on the surface of a pond.
These photographs are saved from being conventional by Friedman’s use of digital alteration — the leaves shine in unnaturally vibrant shades of red and yellow, and in both pieces the water glows like silver mercury. The entire effect is visually stunning, and gently accentuates — without being obvious — the difference between the real and the artificial.
The show will run at the FAVA gallery until Saturday, April 1, and the
gallery is open every afternoon except Monday.