Another Art Road Trip! This time I journeyed north of Boston to the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, MA with Mara Trachtenberg. I had never heard of this particular museum before, but it is housed in a charming old building that sits beside a pond in this close suburb of Boston. Striving to fulfill the vision of founder Arthur Griffin, a major photojournalist in the golden age of film photography, the museum presents exhibitions that work towards promoting an appreciation of the photographic arts and that explore the possibilities within the medium.
Now to be honest, photography is a medium that I hold in very high regard, but a lot of what’s out there just doesn’t inspire me the same way as it used to in my student days. I’m also much more critical of photography having studied it and cut it a lot less slack than other mediums. That being said, I did enjoy the work that I saw at the Griffin Museum and would have liked to see the work in their satellite spaces. Multiple exhibitions were on display, but we were able to catch some of the work of their upcoming members show as well as a peek of student work from a class being held in the main gallery space.
The main event for Mara was seeing Horace and Agnes: A Love Story, a collaboration between photographer Asia Kepka and writer Lynn Dowling. The imagery was lovely with such bright vintage colors and expressive characters (in mask mind you), they were of something only found in a technicolor or Wes Anderson film. What really struck me most of all was the writing, not necessarily the over arching story line, but those little details that add to the world building they work to achieve. They created a whole set of secondary and tertiary characters complete with their own back stories! Whilst reading that one has left a world behind due to a “scandalous affair” or that a pair of them works on things like decoupage it just makes their world that much more real and relatable to our own. Who doesn’t know characters like these in their own lives?!
Visually the most striking for me was Asia Kepka’s series Bridget and I, a body of work created with probably my favorite film medium, large format 4×5 film. This series of self portraits was just so deeply intimate and aesthetically stunning that I gravitated more towards it. Kepka documents a ten year personal journey of interacting with a manikin she named Bridget, but Bridget truly comes to life in the series. It’s amazing how with just a play of the angle, shift of the head, and environment provided how quickly one can break past the internal knowledge that Bridget is not alive and deceive yourself into thinking she is in some way. I’d say that she pushes this better than say the film Lars and the Real Girl, but that struggle with what is real does parallel both.
It was great meeting some of the staff at the Griffin, including Executive Director Paula Tognarelli, and seeing their lovely space. As someone who works in a non-profit visual arts organization it’s always great seeing other similar organizations bringing amazing exhibitions to the communities they reside in.