1922 University Avenue. Madison WI. 53726


Saturday, October 23, 2010


January 17- February 25 
Amy Mietzel's Cherokee Middle School Students TAKE SOMETHING ORDINARY

February 28-April 8
NATIONAL EXHIBITION, juried by Andy Adams of Flak Photo

April 11-May 20 

May 23-July 1 

July 4- August 12 
Tyler Robbins SUBURBAN

August 15-September 23 
Samantha VanDeman LOST SCHOOLS

September 26-November 4 

November 7- December 30
People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Ho-Chunk Families by Charles Van Schaick, 1879-1942
sponsored by the Wisconsin Historical Society

More information about each exhibit is always available at our Facebook page...just click the logo to the right! Be sure to visit the artists' websites, and to come back during exhibits for interviews with the artists and reviews! It's going to be a gorgeous exhibition season!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Interview with photographer Patricia Delker, AND STILL THERE ARE SECRETS

Our newest exhibit marks the return of a past exhibit curator, Patricia Delker.  This time, she's showing her new work, a series of intimate black and white portraits.  Always one for a great conversation, this time she's got you thinking that while she's telling you a secret, you may actually end up telling her one.  

1. There's currently a memoir revival in literature, and writers like Jeanette Walls and Mary Karr are changing the scope of autobiography by exorcising their family histories in unflinchingly direct language. Do you think all art starts as autobiography, and how do you think a personal series translates to viewers?

I think people...both artists and viewers...would probably be surprised at how much art is autobiographical, if they really delved into it. Well, artists might not be quite as surprised as viewers, but I do think what we select to make art about certainly originates in the intellect, the experiences and personal history of the maker. One photographer is drawn to make landscape photographs, another is not...that decision stems from what makes up the individual. I think it might be sort of an artistic DNA. I feel a bit sad for the "artist" who spends years trying to make work that looks like someone else's that they may admire. Being influenced by others is great, copying what they do is not making art in my opinion. As to whether a personal series translates to a viewer, I think the personal often is the universal. Though we often think we are so different from others, at the core we are probably more similar than different, and it's the core similarities that translate even when the work stems from one's personal life. In the case of "And Still There Are Secrets", I believe everyone carries around their own secrets, whether they are traumatic or humorous or even mundane...everyone has a secret.

2. You photograph the intangible. Can you tell us about that intangible - is it memory, emotion, or something different - and how do you pre-visualize it? What's your process?

The intangible can't be touched, but it's there. Yes, memory and emotion are intangibles, but so is faith/the spiritual...so is history/time...and thought/inspiration. It's like we are brought up to believe the three-dimensional tangible world is dominant and most important, but it really seems to me we are beings dominated by our intangible worlds as much or more than the tangible one. It seems like the tangible world put limits on us and intangible world is limitless. There is certain subject matter and objects that I have been drawn to from the beginning, and I began to see that and delve into why, and that thought process lead to the discovery that it wasn't so much about the subject matter itself, but what the subject matter meant. The subject was a symbol for something far larger...an intangible. I don't want to shortchange that inner journey or thought process because I think it's very important to an artist to understand certain things about themselves and their work, and it did take some time to understand why I was doing what I did when I was making photographs of my subjects. So...my process is thought first, image second. I try to steer away from making other people's pictures and stay in touch with the power of symbolism.

3. Your model Heather Solomon is a virtual chameleon in this series, and she seems to physically change from image to image - as a viewer, I had to remind myself that this was the same woman. Was this a collaborative effort that allowed Heather to bring her own emotion to the image, or was she fully directed? Would you share tips on working with and selecting models?

Heather is a close friend, and as my artist's statement says, I don't think this series would have been made without her collaboration. I appreciate that, and her, immensely. A photo session usually started by my preparing a list of secrets I wanted to explore, finding the objects that suitably represented them and had meaning to me personally or I thought was symbolic of the secret in some way. I then sketched out an idea of my first visions. All these things, plus camera/film, I brought to the session. Two thirds of the time I probably shared the particular secret with Heather, but even when I didn't, as friends we had already covered a lot of personal history which I think served the sessions. The sessions were only about an hour, hour and a half...we covered maybe six or so secrets a session, over a roughly two year period. (There are actually probably close to 40 "secrets" that we photographed, but I edited that work to the 21 that are in the exhibit.) I didn't want to waste Heather's time; after all, she was doing me a favor. Anyway, we started with the sketches, some explanation, and then would see where that might take us. Heather has a great ability to "get it", and also she came to work. Modeling is work. At some point, I often said, "well, what do you feel like doing with this...what works for you?" This was actually my first time to work at length with a model and I suspect I might now be very spoiled. But I think working with any model requires that you know what you want, you don't waste their time, you take what they do seriously with the expectation that they will take what you are doing seriously and you treat them and the process with respect. I think the thing I most value about Heather's involvement with this project is her ability to look at the work, or an individual picture, not as a picture of herself, but to be able to embrace the concept that it was a symbol for something else; it wasn't about her, it was about the project, and then evaluate the results with that perspective.

4. You shoot film and make silver gelatin prints! How do you feel about the future of the wet darkroom, and what do you think your traditional process adds to your work that a digital process might not?

The wet darkroom is just magic to me (Another intangible perhaps?). Shut yourself up in a dark room, listen to the right music, pour magic chemicals, while manipulating/creating the picture you envisioned and then watching it come to life in front of you, slowly appearing in the tray. You feel like an ancient alchemist! I don't feel any magic in front of a computer. But that's just me. The important thing in this day and age is that you have all of photo history, and all the current/past/alternative processes to select from to make the image that you envision. You select the one that works for who you are, and how you can use it to make the image you want. Ultimately, it's not about how you make the picture; it's about the journey in making it and the final product of the journey.

5. When one stands to look closely at this work, her own image as viewer is reflected back from the great black spaces in your prints - as the viewer can't help but insert herself, it suddenly becomes her secret. Is it more important to you that people access this work in their own personal way, or that your experience remains yours? How do you feel if people make up their own stories over your personal history?

Wow, to be honest, I never thought of that specifically. It certainly seems appropriate, given that while the work is based in my secrets, it seeks to acknowledge and address the individual secrets we all carry with us. It's very important to me that people look at the work this way; it's one of the reasons I don't have individual titles for the pieces in the exhibit. I think titles are ideally provided to give the audience a clue to the significant thing about the picture, to assist the viewer into the picture. In this instance, it's really not about guessing the secret being represented, it's about what the image may trigger unconsciously in the viewer about themselves. So, I think it's great when people come up and say, "you know what that says/means to me" and then tell me their story. We sharing a secret...doesn't matter whether it's mine or theirs. What matters is that we recognize the role they play in our lives.