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Across County LineS

Updated: Oct 11, 2018

On Saturday, October 6, 2018, the Nasher Museum's curatorial team celebrated the opening of Across County Line: Contemporary Photography from the Piedmont, which highlights the talents of 39 local artists. The exhibition was co-curated by myself and curatorial colleagues Molly Boarati, assistant curator; Melissa Gwynn, curatorial assistant; Marshall N. Price, curator of modern and contemporary art; and Trevor Schoonmaker, deputy director of curatorial affairs and curator of contemporary art. It was a mad dash to the finish, as the exhibition began development in early February, but we were thrilled to revisit, meet, and review the work of hundreds of talented photographers in such a short amount of time.

Below are a few of the works for which I wrote explanatory texts. I thought it would be great to publish them here, as these artists are exploring issues that impact people near and far. Some give highlight to the every day while others unearth the complexities of contemporary life in the US and abroad.


Hồng-Ân Trương and Hương Ngô The opposite of looking is not invisibility. The opposite of yellow is not gold, 2016

The opposite of looking is not invisibility. The opposite of yellow is not gold pairs text with image to reveal the power of language and illustrate repressed narratives of race and gender in the United States. The work includes personal photographs of the artists’ mothers who resettled in the US after fleeing the war in Vietnam. Whether posing in front of a birthday cake or American-made cars, they perform for themselves and the onlooker the identity of a successful immigrant. Between each set of vernacular photographs are laser-etched panels of text that contain excerpts from 1970s-era US congressional hearings on the fate of Indochinese refugees after the war. Members of Congress discuss the economic merits of the refugees' laboring bodies and the obstacles that these expatriates would face. Two larger-than-life photographs of family photo albums accompany the smaller photographs and laser-cut prints, an indexical gesture that elevates the status of the personal archive to the art object.


Anna Kipervaser, The Call of Cairo, 2010–2014

Over the years, Cairo, Egypt has earned the nickname "The City of a Thousand Minarets." Minarets are tall spires that pierce the skyline and serve to broadcast the adhan or Muslim call to prayer. Muezzins, appointed by mosque elders to lead the adhan, recite the melodic call five times each day, beckoning the faithful to take pause and worship. In recent decades, the number of mosques has grown exponentially. Nearly 4,000 mosques and 30,000 zawyas, or non-official mosques, were in operation in Cairo during the summer of 2010, and, to some, the call had become a discordant echo of competing voices. In an effort to mitigate this, Cairo's Ministry of Religious Endowments began the highly controversial Adhan Unification Project. The unification plan sought to replace thousands of muezzins with that of a single voice transmitted live from a central radio station to all of Cairo's officially recognized mosques. On Look Films, led by Anna Kipervaser, set out to capture the stories of those who would be impacted by the unification plan. Kipervaser and her team—comprised of David Degner, Rodion Galperin, Jeremy Johnson, Scott F. Busch, and Meredith Zielke—began production in 2009, and over the next several years documented the transformation of a 1,400-year-old tradition. The feature documentary film, Cairo in One Breath, and photographs exhibited here were the results of their multi-year project on the adhan in Cairo.


Colby Katz, Rabbit Hunt, 2004–2005

Colby Katz's artistic practice focuses on people living outside of mainstream US culture. In 2004, she set out for the Florida Heartland, where grower-owners produce sugarcane on 70,000 acres of fertile farmland and 37 percent of Belle Glade and Pahokee residents live below the poverty line.

Each fall after the harvest, fields of sugarcane are scorched to prepare for next year's crop. As the heat from the flames intensifies, rabbits scurry into the fields running in all directions. Local hunters—often teenaged boys—patiently await their arrival with BB guns and other humble tools in hand. The terrain is muddy and rough, and the thick smoke makes it hard to see and to breathe. The rabbits, a prized meat in this area, are abundant and offer an exciting challenge to these novice hunters. At the end of the day, the rabbit coterie strings up its catch and ties the animals to bicycle handlebars. Some prepare their rabbits for dinner that evening, while others sell their day's catch for a few dollars. This annual rabbit hunt has become a local tradition. Colby's photographs immortalize the triumphant hunters and celebrate a seemingly quotidian moment of rural life.


Kennedi Carter, Life series, 2017

In the summer of 2017, violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia when anti-hate groups clashed with white supremacists protesting the removal of a Confederate monument. A twenty-year-old man drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters killing Heather Heyer and seriously injuring nineteen others. The event shocked the nation and sparked a series of subsequent events. In Durham, activists toppled a Confederate statue that stood at the entrance to the Durham County Courthouse and rumors quickly circulated that the Ku Klux Klan intended to respond. While it is still unclear whether the KKK and its supporters made an appearance that day (August 18) in Durham, the message sent by counter-protesters was strong. Within a few short hours, the streets of downtown Durham swelled with thousands of activists and their allies. They marched until nightfall with a few taking overnight watch at the courthouse.

Throughout the day, Kennedi Carter followed anti-hate allies with camera in hand. Many of her photographs are of those most vulnerable to white nationalist ideologies and hate crimes. Here, she captures young black Americans firmly signaling to the KKK that its ideology of hate and bigotry would not be tolerated in Durham.

Indecision still surrounds the nearly 1,500 monuments that stand tall in many of the nation's cities. In Durham, the granite plinth sits empty and serves as a daily reminder of the issues at stake.


D.L. Anderson, NC Prideascope, 2014

In 2012, D.L. Anderson developed a fascination with a technique he calls diplopia photography. Created in-camera, the double-exposed photographs are kaleidoscopic distortions of contrasting details. Anderson's N.C. PRIDEASCOPE series renders a complex vision of the North Carolina Pride parade. It incorporates imagery that expresses the fluidity and complexity of gender and sexuality as well as the continued need for activism to support the LGBTQIA+ community.

North Carolina's Pride culture is storied. The first march, under the slogan "Our Day Out," was held in Durham in 1981. Five years later, the first annual festival took place, and was supported by the Duke Gay and Lesbian Alliance and held on Duke's campus. The festival went on to pave the way for LGBTQIA+ progress in North Carolina, and on September 27, 2014, the NC Pride Festival and Parade celebrated thirty years.


Maya Freelon, Wade in the Water series, 2015 & 2016

Photography plays a fundamental role in the life of a performance. Notable moments in art history, such as Ana Mendieta's Silueta series (1973 – 1977) or Adrian Piper's Mythic Being (1973 – 1975), may not be known to us today without their resulting images. For better or worse, the photographs become the work of art.

In Maya Freelon's series Wade in the Water, she performs expressly for the camera. An audience does not look on, and the only witnesses are her collaborator, Chris Charles, and his camera. Freelon walks an old road taken out of commission during the construction of Jordan Lake—a human-made reservoir developed as part of a flood control project—until she is fully submerged. Unencumbered by the material world and invoking the enigmatic water spirit Oshun (the Yoruba deity of sweet water and fertility), she traverses both earthly and spiritual realms. Taken during a challenging time in the artist's life, these photographs capture a moment in which Freelon faces conflicting forces: despair and vulnerability, power and perseverance.


Harrison Haynes, Break Beat, 2018

Raised on a healthy dose of punk music and visual art, Harrison Haynes spent much of his youth playing the drums with bands Hellbender and Les Savy Fav and studying painting and photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Bard College MFA program. In recent years, his musical interests and visual art practice have become more simpatico. Using photographs of drums and cymbals paired with images of ordinary objects, Haynes's installations investigate musical traditions and create new musical languages.

The term 'breakbeat' refers to the technique, innovated by early hip-hop DJs, of looping sampled drumbeat fragments. With this piece, I aim to capture the physical representation of a drumbeat, somewhere between a graphic score and a rebus [a puzzle in which pictures represent words]. While in previous works I have used the language of traditional notation to map out specific beats taken from well-known songs, Break Beat presents an imagined, unplayed drumbeat—one in which the relationship between the signs and the sounds are less direct. —Harrison Haynes


Lindsay Metivier, Almost No Memory, 2016–2018

Lindsay Metivier is a compulsive collector of ordinary and spectacular material. In just over two years, she has taken an astounding 100,000 photographs. Her subject matter is wide-ranging and incorporates formalism and abstraction as well as kitsch and the quotidian. Manipulating color, scale, lighting, and perspective, Metivier’s photographs transform everyday moments into something new and unexpected. “Photography gives significance to the apparently meaningless, the banal, the unknown, the weird, and the uncanny,” explains Metivier about the inspiration for her series Almost No Memory. This affinity for the seemingly unremarkable is an outgrowth of her childhood in which she spent countless hours exploring the home of her eccentric grandmother.

In a 2018 interview, Metivier stated, "When I was little my grandmother (who was by definition a hoarder) had a litter of farm kittens lost among the mountains of clothing and objects in her house. My twin sister and I could hear meowing and had to climb around trying to find them. Some piles were so high that our heads were inches from the ceiling."

For Metivier, it may not be the rampant acquisition and attentive ownership of countless objects that matter, but the acts of hoarding, archiving, sifting, and memorializing certainly help inform her practice.



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