"Art is part and parcel of a cumulative and collective enterprise, viewed as seen fit by the prevailing culture. It isn’t just the result of an unencumbered creative act. Everything that is seen and understood is part of a work and art is always a collaboration with all that came before you, that co-exists with you, and that comes after you." — Louise Lawler
The intersection of a geographic location and the culture it sustains is marked by how a physical place both supports and is reciprocally shaped by human involvement. Cultural landscape refers to the coalescence of a place with the people who inhabit it and encompasses works of art, narratives of culture, and expressions of regional identity tied to that specific place. Surveying the social and artistic topography of a place reveals aspects of its origins and development, as well as the interconnectivity of the relationships between the physical location, society and its structures.
The provenance of Louisville’s current cultural landscape can be accessed through the juxtaposition and alignment of the work of two photographers living and working in the city– one native and the other a recent transplant. The accompanying artworks unearth narratives about the area’s human geography- how a place and the people that produce creative output in that place serve as the bedrock of its vernacular landscape. The portraits shown here depict individuals who contribute to and enrich the area’s cultural terroir- affirming that the creative outpouring that takes place here is unique and incapable of being reproduced elsewhere. The individuals represented here may be preceded by their reputation. They may perhaps be more easily identifiable by the fruits of their creative labor - the artwork they create, music they produce, or performances they direct- than by their names or faces alone. But portrayed in and through their most valued environments, the resulting images reveal the virtues of the person depicted in equal measure with the backdrop against which they are situated.
Sarah Lyon originally viewed her photographic practice as a means through which she could experience her native city, as though she were an outsider exploring it for the first time. She began translating her personal relationships and experiences into an alternative way of mapping the city and its human and geographic landmarks. Out of this practice grew a portrait series that allows Lyon to become better acquainted with those who accompany her on these explorations, synthesizing them with their own personal environments.
The people with whom Lyon re-discovers her city are the figures who appear in her photographs. Consistently situated within a wide visual plane, the space and distance afforded to the figures facilitates an unimposing co- existence between the subject and the viewer. Allowing the viewer to soak in the totality of situational factors that shape the subject’s identity. Lyon’s photographs convey a sense of rootedness, giving prevalence to place and obscuring the distinction between whether the subject’s identity is informed by the impact they have on their locale, or the impact their locale has on them.
Tom LeGoff approaches his subjects as a self-proclaimed outsider, his portraits less burdened with history and interpretation. After re-locating to the area four years ago, he familiarized himself with the city by considering those who prominently occupy the landscape. LeGoff’s work magnifies the inherently ‘other’ quality that inevitably accompanies notoriety, imbuing his photographs with an elevated sense of intrigue as he casts his subjects in various roles, as though they were characters in a film noir. Yet, these oft-solicited and dramatized relationships still subtly convey reality. LeGoff intently concerns himself with the parts his subjects play in the locale he shares with them. Without pretense of familiarity, he offers viewers delicate contextual clues from which to deduce their identity, as illustrated in is his photograph, Chris (2015).
This image shows the portrait of an artist who uses the scale of her own body as the guiding principle in the production of her artwork. Using materials such as shards of glass and airy mesh boxes as representations of her own weight and volume, she examines how those constructed representations relate to and react with the environment around them. Photographed near her studio in the Portland neighborhood, LeGoff poses Chris standing at centurion attention. LeGoff references Chris’ own artistic study, arranging the composition so that her figure occupies the same amount of visual space in the composition as the first column in the row of interstate pylons receding into the horizon, reinforcing the relationship between her form and the environment in which her form exists.
Though examined from different vantage points, Lyon and LeGoff both identify the terroir that characterizes the unique cultural landscape within which they have personally and professionally entrenched themselves. By documenting their creative counterparts, not merely as an act of preservation, but as a means of acknowledging and propagating the artistic talent with which they co-exist, both Lyon and LeGoff participate in a camaraderie that nurtures a thriving creative ecology that is cross- pollinated by both ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’.
This Curatorial Spotlight was written by Jessica Bennett Kincaid.
Jessica Bennett Kincaid is currently the Exhibitions Assistant at the University of Louisville Hite Art Institute. Her curated exhibitions include “Hugh Haynie: The Art of Opinion” at the Frazier History Museum, "All of Bob Lockhart" at Louisville Visual Art’s Public Gallery, and most recently, “Joshua Watts- Resonant Disclosures at the Cressman Center for Visual Arts. She studied at the University of Louisville Hite Art Institute, University of Kentucky, Institut Catholique de Paris, and Santa Reparata International School of Art.
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Written by Jessica Bennett Kincaid. Entire contents copyright © 2016 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.