Installation view of "Camp: Visiting Day"

CAMP: Visiting Day

curated by Ariel Shanberg

June 11 – August 28, 2011

The exhibition CAMP: Visiting Day is inspired by the Catskill’s historic ties to sleep away camps and features artists who knowingly revisit the magical realm where youth reigns, adulthood emerges, secret selves are revealed, an identity is transformed.

The artists featured in CAMP: Visiting Day bring a reflective perspective to this charged landscape. Infused with personal memories and experience, they use photography and video to draw the curtains back on a world experienced by some, mythologized by many.

The experience of sleepaway camp goes far beyond the concept of summer vacation. Sandwiched between the close and start of school, nestled within the intense heat of summer, sleepaway camp is a condensed stew of character shaping separation anxiety and identity formation, with emphasis on outdoor physical activities. The experience is intended to provide a sense of community and fostered networks of relationships that extended into adulthood. Started in the early years of the twentieth century as a refuge from urban environments, summer camps combined Native-American and American folklore, sports, and arts and crafts activities. Within the contexts of religious groups, camps were established to help foster and reinforce group identity and engender their own allegiances. In modern times specialized camps have emerged, focusing on honing skill sets and interests ranging from specific sports to the arts and sciences as well as those designed to alter personal behaviors ranging from sexual orientation to body weight and fitness.

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In 1981, while her daughter attended Camp Pinecliffe in Maine, Gay Block made layered and endearing portraits of the young women at this all-girl camp. Wondering “what ever happened to those friends whose lives we knew intimately well for a few short months each year after we scattered back to our ‘real lives,'” Block chose to track down these women now in their late 30s and early 40s and see where they are now. Her resulting diptychs in the series entitled The Women the Girls are Now and video entitled Camp Girls offer a unique opportunity to find the threads that connect the images of these girls whose shared experiences have impacted the women they are today.

For Adrain Chesser, the surprise of finding his boyhood boy scout camp ground following its foreclosure, bought and transformed into a camp for adult gay men was too perfect. Returning to southern Florida from the west coast, Chesser spent time camping and photographing and staging images that echoed his own transformative experiences as a young boy at the very same campground.

As much as camp can be about togetherness, embedded in its experiences is the trials of separation. The shock and fear that can be found in being thrust into such an alien setting as camp can be defining along with the suddenness of being alone. In his 2001 video Nail Biter artist Anthony Goicolea graphically reminds us of those terrifying experiences. Filled with references to folklore and tall tales, Nail Biter calls to mind the affect of hearing those (or perhaps being) one of those haunting tales told around a campfire.

Long before her landmark documentary project Thin, Lauren Greenfield traveled to Camp Shane in Catskill, NY to photograph the young boys and girls who go there to literally transform themselves – at weight loss camp. Greenfield’s photographs reveal the pressures, social structures, and mutual struggles and triumphs these campers experience.

In her series The Cruel Story of Youth, Jennifer Loeber travels back to the camp where she spent summers as a teen. Nestled within the woods of Massachusetts, Rowe camp is grounded in the ideals of a counter-cultural past and freed from the forced constraints of a conventional camp experience. Loeber’s photographs reveal a society of teenagers empowered through otherwise impossible freedoms and celebrate a community where no ideas are too absurd and eccentricity is the rule, not the exception.

Finally in Albert J. Winn‘s stark black-and-white photographs, the haunting underpinnings of a camp emerge. Winn’s images of empty bunks, mess halls, swimming pools and basketball courts are filled with the echoes of joyful experiences, all the while an unabiding sense of loss intermingles with strong visual references to camps of another nature.

– Ariel Shanberg, June 2011

Ariel Shanberg has served as the Executive Director of CPW since 2003.


"CAMP: Visiting Day", June 11- August 28, 2011    Gay Block

"CAMP: Visiting Day", June 11- August 28, 2011Adrain Chesser

"CAMP: Visiting Day", June 11- August 28, 2011Anthony Goicolea

"CAMP: Visiting Day", June 11- August 28, 2011Lauren Greenfield

"CAMP: Visiting Day", June 11- August 28, 2011Jennifer Loeber

"CAMP: Visiting Day", June 11- August 28, 2011Albert J. Winn