Sara Gray at Gleason/Portland: a foot in both camps
I wrote about Sara Gray’s photographs in December of 2009 when I saw two images that were included in the terrific photography show at George Marshall Store Gallery, curated by Mary Harding. At the time here’s what I wrote:
“I was delighted with Sara Gray‘s two square format images – have seen much of her commercial work in Down East magazine and elsewhere, and figured her work leaping across commercial photography lines in such a show as this could possibly be dismissed. Uh-uh. Take the time to read them closely – they’re gorgeous and well-deserving of the inclusion. I’m just surprised I haven’t seen more of her fine art photography work around.“
When I corresponded with her after the 12/09 show I asked whether she had more work at this level, but she lamented most of her work was editorial in nature. So, I was surprised to see the full page ad for an upcoming show of her work at Gleason Fine Art. I went online, but found no fine art body of work on Sara’s own website yet.
At Gleason last week, I was pleased to see four or five images that did transcend the editorial/scenic genre. When I asked Andrew Gleason if the gallery is beginning to represent photographers he told me Sara is a close friend of the Gleason family and they wanted to honor her in this way.
Perhaps if Sara’s Portland show of work at Gleason had been shaped and curated over a year’s time, it would have more heft, but that said, it’s worth a stop in to appreciate her eye for color AND the fact that the prints are gorgeously printed – by Photo Craft Imaging in Colorado, a big factor in the artist’s favor in my book. Edition size hurts the credibility of the show: If you’re going to pin an edition of 50 on an image celebrating the beauty of Maine, it belongs in a tourist gallery, not a highly regarded fine art gallery like Gleason Fine Art. An edition of 3-10 per image/size denotes the image is more precious. Not to mention it implies the artist is always shooting great images, and knows the next ones will be just as great.
By far the premier image in the show is the one in the ad and above: “Sand Patterns at Low Tide, Old Orchard Beach, ME“. If it had been presented at a good 24″x24″ or larger instead of the 17″x17″ on view, it would pull people in off the street like a magnet. I looked at this image in the ad for a very long time appreciating the strength and abstract nature of the “aerial view”. Surprise, Heather. There’s the issue of the horizon line. It’s not an aerial view at all – and simply stated, it’s the best beach/sand/water/sky image I’ve seen in a long time.
Only one image in the show is larger than 17″x17″ and that really is a shame. This 20″x20″ “Tree in Snowy Field at Dawn” is breathtaking, and although it’s been done before, when I looked at it, I felt I was seeing such a take for the first time. I couldn’t get a good reproduction of it, but wanted to include this jpg for reference regardless.
Shows like this take a shocking investment in printing and framing, so I understand the smaller size range. I would suggest next time fewer images be presented and larger so the viewer can appreciate better the fine details of the work.
The image at the top of this posting, “Dock at Sunrise“, didn’t make it on to my “fine art photographs” list at first because the content teeters on the scenic genre, but I kept coming back to it. It is a photograph so wondrously created I had to step aside and let it make the leap. It did, and quite without my help, thank you very much.
I had no such hesitation with the elegaic “Dawn, Mt. Katahdin” below.
There’s nothing wrong with scenic photography and if you live in Maine why the heck wouldn’t you make beautiful photographs of beautiful places? The hard part is to take photographs no one else has, would or can. That’s the unique vision that is fine art photography and I wish Sara would make the leap more often for us.
Sara Gray: Transitions is on view at Gleason Fine Art/Portland through November 30, 2011.