Definitely Justin Kirchoff is justified in making a big deal of being 40. It’s a complicated time psychologically – you feel free, you feel old, you feel anxious and regretful, you feel an odd relief, and deep panic. It’s not the same as a “mid-life crisis”. Those are all about denial. At 40, you figure you’re halfway “there”, and now you need to figure out how to make the last half count.
Half-Life – now on view at the George Marshall Store Gallery in York through June 1 – is a show of 14 exquisitely crafted silver gelatin (and one digital print) prints by Justin Kirchoff – and the works express just the right kind of limbo – you’ve got one foot on the shore of youth, (and here is where some people get permanent neck cramp looking back at what is lost), while your other foot is trying to find secure placement facing forward so you can set off with a strong and sure stride towards…well, who knows? And that kind of says it all.
Doorway©Justin Kirchoff. All Rights Reserved
Justin’s psyche is seriously impacted by the birth of a daughter, Parrish, in 2002. He buys a house somewhere in there, and his dad is hospitalized. Yep, the past, the present and the future, comin’ at ya.
The 15 images on exhibit represent the years from 2007 – 2014. It felt motley as a group to me when I viewed it, but after hearing from Justin about how he selected these particular images to be exhibited together, I’m less concerned with that and think the lack of fluidity may be part of his point. But I do think these particular images could have been installed differently, and that would have allowed the viewer more engagement. A long artist’s statement tries to bridge the gap between artist and viewer, but like almost every artist’s statement out there, it’s more a philosophy paper and waaay too much information for what is supposed to be a visual experience. A statement comprised of a couple of sentences, together with a more coherent installation would have allowed the photographs to do the talking and that is a very, very big point with me. Why do visual artists feel such a strong need to verbalize their work? (see my most recent addition to PHOTOQUOTES on the VoxPhotographs website here)
House of Cards©Justin Kirchoff. All Rights Reserved
The strongest images are those which make composition a priority, like “House of Cards” above. It’s a brilliant concept content-wise, totally supported by the design of the image. Another image “Rough House” shows father and daughter in the midst of a rowdy moment indoors, but the design of the piece, together with Justin’s perfect expression of “how did I get here?” combine to make it a total success.
The picture below, “Snow Flake Study” was a good choice for the exhibit flagship image for two reasons; it’s an excellent example of how Justin addresses the sidebars instead of the more obvious headlines of life at 40. (You can also see this insight in “Ramp Test” – a seemingly innocuous photo that, upon longer engagement, is closer to stand-up comedy: Justin designing a ramp for a small dirt bike using a precariously thin sheet of plywood and large plastic garbage cans. Oh, the things we do!) But “Snow Flake Study” speaks so eloquently of Justin’s love for his daughter and the single-most important need any child has: our total attention.
Snow Flake Study©Justin Kirchoff. All Rights Reserved
One last little treat as you reach the end of the exhibit is the image “Invisible Man” – you’ll get a grin at no cost for your trip to see this show – the cherry on top, so to speak.
By the way, Justin Kirchoff is the recipient of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation’s Artist Advancement Grant, and it’s a darn generous grant. This “Momentum XII” exhibit is under the Foundation’s auspices. The Foundation’s grants are limited to a very small region of Maine and New Hampshire, but check it out. It may be worth moving!