Santa Barbara, CA
Art and the Cosmos Combine in a Photographic Exhibition from SBMA’s Permanent Collection
February 22 – May 25, 2014
Image: Unknown, Eclipse, n.d. Toned albumen print. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by FOPA.
January 2, 2014―The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) presents Heavenly Bodies, a photographic exhibition with works largely from the permanent collection ranging from the 19th century through today. Comprised of more than 60 images, this exhibition explores the intersection of the arts and sciences by highlighting technological advances in photography through artistic visions of natural phenomena.
Heavenly Bodies revisits the subject matter of the 1967 exhibition Once Invisible, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, showing the myriad ways the telescope and camera have expanded our knowledge about the natural world and the universe beyond. By exploring both the macrocosm―stellar constellations, solar eclipses, and streaking comets, as well as the microcosm, such as bacteria, salt ponds, and soap bubbles―each photograph is simultaneously simple and direct, yet revelatory. The exhibition, in its entirety, suggests that everything around us is even more expansive than it initially appears to be.
Artists in Heavenly Bodies focus on the curiosity, investigation, imagination, and storytelling of our galaxies and beyond. Photographer John Chervinsky specializes in large format photography and creates still-life works through the camera and mixed media. By employing scientific apparatuses mixed with his drawings, Chervinsky creates whimsical sets that mimic science demonstrations and physics experiments. His work, All Watched Over(2006), is a new acquisition for SBMA and represents the cover image of the accompanying exhibition catalogue, which hosts 34 plates from the exhibition.
Kenneth Josephson prints black and white conceptual photographs that consistently challenge the viewer. He alters perspectives and the concepts of representation in images that push beyond the boundaries of the physical photograph, and engages the viewer in multiple dialogues within the print, questioning what occurs outside the captured moment. Humor is often Josephson’s tool of choice to convey photographic truths and illusions, and he ultimately constructs his own photographic realities and ideas rather than documenting real actions.
William McDowell works to connect with space toiling with the similarities photographers and astronomers share—both apply the science of optics, and capture and process information and discovery within a world of darkness. Through the camera he continues to associate space and the photographic process. In creating the image Milky Way (2005/2010), McDowell believed that the remains of his father’s ashes had a strong visual resemblance to that of the stars. He found the haphazard action of the falling ashes to carry a means of interconnectivity, and the image is a reflection of the relationship of life, Earth, and space. The recipient of the 2013 Peter S. Reed Foundation Grant, McDowell has been published in magazines such as Art in America, The New Yorker, and Esquire, and showcased in both group and solo exhibitions around the world.
Photography team Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison pride themselves in their dreamlike imagery. As they work to transform nature through technology, abstraction, and a means of visual improvisation, their work holds imaginative elements that sway the viewer, reinventing the known world. The couple adds reconstructed mechanisms to natural environments, designing groundbreaking scenery that awaits the camera. The imageDeparture (1997)shares how, in unfamiliar moments, the photographers aid their audience with familiar components allowing contradictions to run wild. Displaying illustrious versions of space and sky, and creating a recognizable means of a rocket, the team constructs a takeoff with a single capture and a medley of objects.
Santa Barbara based photographer Jacqueline Woods explores pure light in the same manner conceptual musician John Cage did with sound and silence―as a raw material. In her Black Sun (2013)series, she creates images not with a camera but rather through experimental light-sensitive methods. Through the interaction of black and white prints and mild chemical solutions, Woods allows the photographic process to generate the content of the work. She finds that working in the darkroom to craft hand-made prints to be a meditative activity.