The Chazan Gallery is presenting Site Specific, an exhibition of works by Alexandra Broches, Giacomo Fortunato and Mary Beth Meehan from November 15 to December 5, 2012. There will be an opening reception for the artists on Gallery Night, Thursday, November 15, from 5 – 7 p.m. The public is invited.
Alexandra Broches presents color photographs from her ongoing series Altered Landscapes. This series reflects Broches' interest in human interaction with the natural world. She examines the varied ways in which we adapt, beautify and preserve our surroundings. Broches writes, "My work is about place - place created and defined by us in relationship to nature, sometimes in concert, sometimes in defiance, creating beauty and devastation."
Broches has exhibited widely throughout the United States, including The Print Center, Philadelphia, PA and A.I.R. Gallery, New York, NY. She has held numerous solo and group shows at Hera Gallery, where she has been a member and curator for many years. Broches received an MFA in Visual Art from Vermont College, an MA in Art History from Hunter College and a BA from Bennington College. She was a resident fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2008 and 2005. She has taught at Rhode Island College in Providence, RI, Cazenovia College, Cazenovia, NY, and the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, RI.
Giacomo Fortunato's recent series Ascension explores the transformations occurring in the Alto Adige and neighboring regions of Northern Italy. These images explore how the deeply entrenched cultural and religious traditions of the area exist alongside the inevitable changes brought about by modern life. His photographs pose numerous questions about a region which is concurrently static and evolving. He writes "my photographs do not attempt to provide specific sociological answers, but rather they portray my instinctive reactions to the contrasts and conflicting lifestyles of a very beautiful and unique region."
Fortunato received a BFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2007. He has exhibited his work in galleries throughout the United States and Europe, including Galerie des Lices, St. Tropez, France and Galerie Bel-Air, Geneva, Switzerland. He currently lives and works as a commercial and fine art photographer in New York City.
Mary Beth Meehan's work deals with immigration, culture, and community. Her goal is to create a connection with the people of those communities, whose identities are often obscured by economics, politics, or race. Her current series entitled City of Champions, responds to her changing, post-industrial hometown in the New England state of Massachusetts. That work has received financial support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and has recently won a grant from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities to be installed as a large-scale public banner project in downtown Brockton.
Meehan's work has been exhibited internationally and published widely, including in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and the Washington Post. Meehan teaches Documentary Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and is director of the Documenting Cultural Communities program at the International Charter School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
An Interview with Giacomo Fortunato
by Nupur Shridhar and Derek Schmaeling, Hamilton class of 2020
Ascension, the latest series of photographs from Giacomo Fortunato, Wheeler class of 2003, examines the diverse, and almost paradoxical, relationships found in the northern Italian province of Alto Adige: between man and nature, the young and the old, religion and modernity.
Below is the transcript of a phone conversation between myself, Fortunato, and Derek Schmaeling, Hamilton class of 2020 –
30 Nov 2012
NUPUR SHRIDHAR. Thanks for taking the time to meet with us.
GIACOMO FORTUNATO. No problem.
N.S. Derek's with me today – we've both got some questions for you – my first one: Why Italy, and why Alto Adige in particular?
G.F. I've always had a tie to Italy, I've spent a significant amount of time there, both growing up and working – at the Guggenheim in Venice, during the Biennial. The Alto Adige region is a place that was completely different than anything I'd expected to see – with the landscape being completely different, but also all the traditions, the culture – it was totally removed from the city and from other places in Italy that I'd seen –
I was just very interested in this new place – [I wanted] to discover it. And what I discovered was this really huge place with all this construction happening, but it didn't feel like there was enough of a population to fill all this new development, so I just kind of wanted to document everything.
N.S. Did you feel a strong personal connection to this region? Or did you feel more of a connection to the urban parts of Italy?
G.F. I didn't really have that much of a connection with it. Yes, I am Italian, I understand Italian life, but at the same time, this region is very different because it borders Austria – so there was also a language barrier, where some people spoke only Austrian, and that made me feel a little more of an outsider, so I could kind of remove myself from having any real ties to it, and I could observe it with a fresh new perspective.
N.S. Can I ask how you got that great shot of the mountains, leading into the valley? [in reference to (untitled) Alto Adige]
G.F. Oh, that was probably one of the coolest plane rides I ever took – I was flying from Rome to Balzano, which is the biggest city in the Alto Adige region. It was quite breathtaking, going down into the mountains – 10 feet from the tip of the wing, almost touching the sides of the mountain –
DEREK SCHMAELING. What are you hoping to convey in your untitled work Love Notes?
G.F. Well, that was one of the more different images in the series – you know, I personally think it's one of my favorites because it's so bizarre seeing all these love notes –
To give you some context about where it's coming from – it's in Verona, and it's the house of Romeo and Juliet – it's a fictional house, but essentially there are all these love notes from everything –
– and love notes are very youthful, almost an adolescent kind of thing, and it kind of tied into the whole series because when I was in the province, I only noticed really, really young children being pushed in strollers by people on the opposite side of that spectrum, by elders, people past middle age.
So then you have a very static wall with all this emotion coming from all the passionate people in the area – but where are they?
N.S. Wow – yes, in looking at your photographs, it's apparent that none of them are portraits, in the traditional sense, but that you're still trying to – capture the human experience of living in this area –
So I'm wondering if you have any anecdotes about what it was like to interact with the people of the region –
G.F. To tell you the truth, I didn't have many interactions with the subjects – I took a step back – they'd see me taking photos of them, some were taken off guard, some were oblivious to the fact that I was shooting them, but that's the kind of the aesthetic I'm going for in a lot of my work, where I mostly show people in their surroundings, how they define their surroundings, how their surroundings can affect them as well – so they're kind of part of the scenery, I don't have anything to do with them, in terms of interactions – I step back as an observer –
D.S. In your untitled photograph "Cracked Painting," why did you take a picture of this dome?
G.F. That dome is also in Verona, which is a beautiful city, but essentially I'm very fascinated with religion – I'm not religious at all but religion is very prevalent in Italy, and this dome has strong religious connotations to it –
This shot of religious figures in the heavens, the clouds, the Madonna – but with this crack running through it, was pretty compelling, considering my view on religion, but also in relation to this whole idea of "moving on upward" that in this region seems like a strange contradiction –
So this crack running right down the middle of the heavens was a pretty great find.
N.S. I had actually never made the connection between the vertical construction that's happening and the strong, upward-gazing, religious undercurrents present throughout the region – all the Ascension –
D.S. Why are you drawn to religious themes and images?
G.F. Probably because religion in Italy is a very big thing, they're very stringent about their beliefs and I was just very fascinated –
I mean, you've seen the body of work – the shrine on the mountain top – things like that are scattered throughout the landscape to remind you of the omnipresence of Jesus, or God –
I was very intrigued by this kind of force that was governing this whole region.
N.S. Did you feel anything on those mountain paths coming across all these crucifixes and shrines? Perhaps a connection to the people and the land?
G.F. Well, you know, there's always some kind of connection that you form in a place like this – not necessarily because of your beliefs but because of the beliefs of others, and how they translate in your own mind.
Seeing these shrines, mementos people have left behind in the mountains, it kind of makes you feel like a part of whatever Earth they want you to see, even it that's not necessarily what you to believe.
SITE SPECIFIC will be running at the Chazan Gallery until Wednesday, December 5th.