Judy Ellis Glickman illumines at UNE Gallery of Art
ALERT! Judy Ellis Glickman is scheduled to speak about her work on Wednesday, July 11 at UNE Gallery of Art, 5-6:30.
One of the more moving images I’ve seen in a while is “Bird Migration, Quebec, 1998″, above, at “Upon Reflection”, through September 30 at the University of New England Gallery of Art. It’s a exhibit of 73 framed black and white works by Judy Ellis Glickman, the earliest image dated 1985, and 7 face-mounted color prints that partner with a slideshow in the downstairs gallery featuring a further 62 color images all from her current and ongoing explorations using color. “Bird Migration” struck me like a thunderbolt - a succinct and deceptively simple 13.5″x19″ visual statement that defines the vastness of the universe at large and the natural world’s complete acceptance of its organized chaos. And then I saw it - the kicker: a tiny, classic homestead at the bottom right on the horizon line. Within the vastness, is that irrepressible, ever present human existence. Me.
“Judy is a photographer and a humanitarian,” writes Howard Greenberg, of the Howard Greenberg Gallery in NYC, in his introductory essay included in the exhibit’s extensive catalog. And that explains a lot about the viewer’s experience at this exhibit. I found a tenderness in many of the works displayed, but I sensed immediately it came from within the photographer herself, rather than a mood she uses technology to create.
Judy Ellis Glickman got her start as a photographer in the 70′s and her early training included a workshop at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine. But the story really starts with her father Dr. Irving Bennett Ellis (1902-1977) – a highly regarded pictorialist photographer in California. As his daughter (and frequent model), she also met some of his colleagues – Ansel Adams and Edward Weston included. An auspicious start and one that would stick with you!
UNE Gallery Director Anne B. Zill writes that “Judy Glickman’s photographs are never predictable…” and the diversity of subjects covered in this exhibit bear that statement out. Glickman uses only natural or available light when she shoots and “sometimes uses film that also records the infrared rays of light existent in our atmosphere.”
There are things for all viewers to learn in this exhibit, photographers and those of us who are only passionate about photographs. Glickman is very strong in the composition department, as evidenced by an early image “Shaker Doors, Sabathday Lake, Maine, 1987″. Her understanding of light, and in particular partnering with the infrared approach (difficult to reproduce effectively here), while from other photographers can seem gimmicky, is frankly exceptionally successful. The Great Diamond Island series, all infrared exposures, is one of the strongest groups of works in the exhibit, although the two dinghy shots seem out of place and distracting to me for several reasons. This series was shot over ten years, from 1985 – 1995 and “Island Glen, Great Diamond Island, Maine, 1986″, above, is simply nothing short of exquisite. The image is so elysian, it makes me hold my breath when studying it, so as not to mar the picture’s effect with my own imperfect humanity.
Another characteristic that makes many of these images unforgettable is expressed by exhibit Curator Stephen Halpert when he writes, “We are no longer outside the image, but move through the glass and into it…”. My heart seemed to stop when I stood in front of several of Glickman’s images of Holocaust concentration camps. These are not of the in-your-face “LOOK AT THIS AND BE SHOCKED” variety: if ever the viewer will enter pictures in this exhibit, it is with these, as the artist has so completely substituted her camera for your own eyes it is uncanny. You are absolutely there, and the ability of the photographer to transport you so completely almost makes it difficult to breathe at times.
Exterior, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Poland, 1990 (Infrared Gelatin Silver Print)©Judy Ellis Glickman. All Rights Reserved
Included in the exhibit are 60 color images (seven of them face-mounted, which I love, and then framed, which I don’t), billed as “abstracts”. I’m not sure I agree with the label, but I think they are important for several reasons, not the least of which because here is an example of a veteran artist turning a major corner with her work and exploring it very, very deeply and without timidity or apology. The move to this body of work using color, and very strong color at that, and the hook that the photographer herself is included in every one of the images, is obviously of the deepest importance to Glickman. But whatever her reason for taking this new path, in the end it is unimportant to the viewer, because successful art, regardless of the personal meaning that motivates and inspires it, is, in the end, universal.
While I’ve written mostly about the emotional and aesthetic fall-out of this exhibit, it’s important to note the excellent print quality of the works themselves. Glickman’s longtime assistant Melonie Bennett is responsible for the black and white prints, and the 7 color prints are the work of David Segre of Zero Station.
Photographers will come away from this exhibit greatly inspired. But all of us who seek life’s larger meaning through powerful works of art will come away with fuller hearts for having rested here.