If you know the Photography Regional, you know about Susan Myers and Mark McCarty, the co-jurors for this year’s show at Albany Center Gallery.
More than 10 years ago, when the future of the Photo Regional was shaky, Myers helped rescue the show by bringing it to the Fulton Street Gallery in Troy. In recent years, you’ve seen her name as a photographer in several Regionals, including last year’s show.
McCarty is among the handful of Capital Region talents whose work has been honored in the Photo Regional over and over again since the late 1970s, when the juried exhibit was created because photography was banned from the Mohawk Hudson Regional.
Who can forget “Skin,” McCarty’s 2011 solo show at the Opalka Gallery or “The Faces of Alzheimer’s,” his earlier portrait series?
By selecting McCarty as a juror, Albany Center Gallery connects us to its proud and storied history. Early in his career, McCarty was mentored by Les Urbach, the tireless art supporter who founded the downtown Albany gallery in 1977.
Albany Center Gallery is also the only one of the Photo Regional’s current three venues that has been hosting the show from the very beginning.
36th Annual Photography Regional
WHERE: Albany Center Gallery, 39 Columbia St., Albany
WHEN: Through Friday, April 18. 12-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
RELATED EVENT: Awards and reception, 5-9 p.m. Friday, April 4
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 462-4775, www.albanycentergallery.org
“This year, we did local, local, local,” says Tony Iadicicco, executive director of Albany Center Gallery.
From a 150-mile radius, 131 artists submitted 460 images on CD or flash drive, and that's the biggest number of artists in recent years, as the usual count has been around 100.
Myers and McCarty came to the gallery, spent several hours looking at digital images, and picked 61 by 43 photographers.
Their show is a healthy mix of veteran artists and newcomers and represents a range of work, from traditional to abstract and avant-garde.
Poverty and decay
While it’s impossible to have an overall theme in a show like this, in the main part of the gallery, the images that grab the viewer seem somber and reflect poverty, decay and intimate psychological observations.
Luba Ricket’s “Divine Design Demolish” could be about last year’s razing of St. Patrick’s Church in Watervliet.
In sepia tones that suggest the old days when the church was built, we see a lone tower standing amid the fallen stone, and yet from a window in the tower, there is the motion of falling dust and debris, as if we were watching it happen.
Isolated, the church tower is both tragic and triumphant, like a dying soldier on a battlefield.
Ian Creitz shows us an abandoned mill in Oneida County. The wide landscape of brick forms is transformed into a fascinating archaeological site, and the red-orange colors of the bricks are enhanced so we see every detail.
George Simmons plays with color, too, in “Red,” which captures the rust and mottled paint of a vintage metal chair, and “Yellow,” in which pink blossoms scatter on the striped asphalt of a city street.
Perry Burlingame and Mike Shannon venture into the abstract.
Burlingame’s “12,” apparently inspired by a nightmare, is a large image of a child caught in some kind of brown pod or cage.
Shannon’s “Divergence” is two-dimensional, a collage of curled and burned pieces of paper. But if we look deeper, we see the faint images of two train tracks leading to a distant landscape of water and trees.
On another wall, human figures appear and Tracy Buyce’s heartbreaking photo of a starving dog.
Kayla Coons’ “Handle on Me” is a fascinating montage of 16 photos of human feet and hands in white, window-like frames that beg us to peer inside.
Deeper in the gallery, there is a room dominated by two females.
Breanna Berger-Tzabar’s “In Bloom” is a heavenly portrait of a semi-nude pregnant woman, lying on a floral bedspread so that the pattern of flowers seems to emanate from her fecund shape. The delicate yet strong image brings to mind angels and madonnas in a Michelangelo fresco.
The other woman is a platinum blonde in a pink party dress from the 1960s.
Created by Newbold Bohemia, there are three images of this mystery woman in staged, cinematic scenes and bold Technicolor, as if they were clipped from the reel of an old movie.
But like a character from “Valley of the Dolls,” this woman is in trouble. In one photo, she takes comfort in a cup of tea and a cup of pink-and-white pills. In another, she’s reaching for a gun, and we imagine that she's going to kill her husband.
Things gets even more surreal when we look at Sean Hovendick’s photo of a suburban neighborhood of bland houses, and amid the monotony, we see a strange figure in what looks like a white spacesuit. Who or what is it?
One can’t help but think “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” in Mark Van Wormer’s “Mountain Mist, Saranac Lake, NY.”
The typical mid-century architecture might appear anywhere in rural America, but in this night scene, the illumination appears eerie and unreal, as if the ice cream stand was a spaceship.
Around the corner, we find Connie Frisbee Houde’s “Dock at Dusk,” and our eyes are drawn to blue-striped bags stacked on a crude wooden dock in West Africa. A woman in colorful skirt and head wrap stands under a stormy sky, looking out to sea.
Albany Center Gallery hosts the Photo Regional every three years in a rotation with the Opalka and Fulton Street.
This is the third Photo Regional at Albany Center since it moved to Columbia Street eight years ago from a small room at the Albany Public Library.
Albany Center, which has 286 members, is community supported and keeps going with money from fundraisers, donations and funding from the New York State Council on the Arts.
When Urbach was its director, the city of Albany provided a free space for the gallery. For many years, the city also helped fund the gallery.
“The city took away funding three years ago,” says Iadicicco.
“It’s a challenge, but we keep going and stay true to our mission of showcasing and promoting local and regional artists.”
Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197 or [email protected]