Paula Tognarelli Juror’s Statement
In jurying this author-blind exhibition for the Center for Fine Art Photography, I gave myself the leeway to discard all prescribed notions on portraiture. Instead, I wanted to think only about what each photograph revealed to me on the essence of a subject, overtly or implied. I hoped the results would yield rich dialogue and a diversity of styles. Any formula such as “only head and shoulder shots are portraits,” I dismissed. Heads weren’t even a major consideration as evidenced by Susan Friedman, Rohina Hoffman and Sarah Schorr’s portraits in which the heads are cropped outside the frame. Some subjects locked my gaze, others remained askance. Full bodied, side views, silhouettes, reflections, back of head views and abstractions, all made it through my muster. There is one classic portrait of a Marwari horse from India by Mary Aiu. One chicken was set free in the last culling round.
A number of masked portraits were submitted. Anonymity in a portrait exhibition seemed a challenge when my goal was finding transparency. I finally chose a steampunk portrait by Beamie Young because of my childhood fancy for Jules Vern. I chose Sunjoo Lee’s Memorabilia3 Jaqueline of a woman covered in wrapping paper due to what I know of the works’ intent. Lee’s thesis is that the women of her culture keep true feelings hidden or “under wraps.” My Dead Sister by Amalia Eva Gamio, though a masked figure, spoke more to me about connecting to her sister than hiding her identity.
I was asked to choose a Trifecta Award (for a solo exhibition at the Griffin Museum), a Juror’s Award and several Honorable Mentions. I awarded Robert Schultz the Juror’s prize for his chlorophyll print of an unidentified union soldier. The original image was taken from the US Library of Congress’ archives. What engaged me was found in the soldier’s eyes along with the veins of a leaf on which the image was printed. I saw these veins as blood vessels pulsing against the young man’s face. At his mouth, my imagination shaped an entry wound that a bullet might make striking its target.
The works I chose to exhibit at the Griffin Museum are the portraits by D. Clarke Evans of World War II Veterans. In a letter once from a gentleman of the Griffin’s public, I was accused that I would never do an exhibition on war or guns. My response was to send him installation shots of our Bullet Points exhibition shown in winter 2016 and example photographs from an upcoming exhibition on the topic of “war.” I can’t wait to invite my personal critic to D. Clarke Evans’ opening reception as my guest.
Karin Rosenthal received an honorable mention for Contemplation, 2004, along with Jay Boersma for And All the Color Drained from My Face and Cody Bratt for One Thousand Yards Away. When I saw Rosenthal’s photograph my first thought was that this portrait seemed fashioned from the earth and that of course led me to thinking of “dust to dust” analogies. I have always appreciated Jay Boersma’s humor and ingenuity. While I wasn’t sure this image was his, I did suspect. His action sequence depicted a changing state as would a film strip or flip book. The subject in Cody Bratt’s portrait conveys duality, more than likely caused by two torn photographs taken at different moments in time and placed side by side to complete the other. It is the portrait’s psychological gesture that drew me.
The times are complicated. The very air is filled with anxiety as we isolate ourselves for safe keeping. Yet this exercise of jurying portraits, this looking deeply into “the eyes” of another, buoyed my spirit. It also connected me back to our photography collective and its generosity and resilient nature. With optimistic thoughts, my hope is that this conversation provides a vehicle for rejuvenating inner stores.
My deepest gratitude goes to the Center for Fine Art Photography and to Hamidah Glasgow, its executive director and curator for this opportunity. I also appreciate that Hamidah indulged me by making an online vehicle for 15 more images. It was such a heartbreak to let any of them go.
In addition, thank you to every photographer who submitted to this call. Each image you presented, I explored. I will remember your photographs.
Executive Director and Curator
Griffin Museum of Photography
April 12, 2020