Thursday, July 9, 2009

Polaroid: Past & Present

I knew that I wouldn't be able to go to the opening reception, so I stopped by the Polaroid: Past & Present show today. For all that the show is exhibited in the alternative space of Union Avenue Christian Church's Gretchen Brigham Gallery and hallway, many artworks have been included and it was fun to see the extensive exploration of media and techniques depicted.

The exhibition offers an extensive glimpse into what local artists have done within the context of the media. A diverse range of approaches has been included. Several pieces offer fusions of multiple media simultaneously, including Jeane Vogel's intimate views of nature incorporating both drawing and photography, Connie Lambert's vibrant figurative works utilizing printmaking, drawing and Polaroid emulsion, and Joanne Kluba's beautifully articulated haiku prints which explore both travel and the natural world. Several artists sought to fuse older and newer techniques by reworking the Polaroid images in a newer format or incorporating them into the digital process, as seen in Marianne Pepper's Mykonos series. And still others took a different approach, like Todd Thomas creating collages of multiple Polaroid images and Barbara Zucker incorporating multiple Polaroid emulsions of images from the natural world.

There are also some recurring themes that help to connect the show (even beyond the focus on the Polaroid). The effect is well-suited to a delicate exploration of the natural world and many artists utilize this sensibility. And the context and history of the Polaroid lends itself to travel-based themes, so this is also an underlying current through much of the work. Jane Linders' photographs of vintage motel signs hearken back to the road trip along historic Route 66. And several of Dallas Moses' humorous glimpses of the world visit the idea of the road trip as well, as in "I Wanted Mustard", an image of the world's largest catsup bottle, or "Jesus Loves Billboards" of a JESUS billboard alongside the highway. A sense of travel to various exotic, faraway places is also conveyed, as in Kay Wood's Egypt triptychs of Polaroid emulsions on papyrus, Marion Noll's views of Venice, and Susan Hacker Stang's visions of Florence (of which she has published a book).

So it was wonderful to see the theme of the Polaroid revisited and to see how different artists approach the media. I would recommend attending the opening reception if you can do so, or at least viewing the show sometime while it's up. There's a lot to absorb and some wonderful surprises and I'm glad that I was able to see it today.

Polaroid: Past & Present
Arts Group of Union Avenue
Union Avenue Christian Church
733 Union Blvd.
St. Louis, MO
July 5 - Aug. 2, 2009
reception July 12, 12 - 2 PM

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