Relationships: A Ten Year Bond

Relationships: A Ten Year Bond

curated by SUNY New Paltz Students
September 2 – October 29, 2006

In 1995 a partnership was created between the Center For Photography at Woodstock (CPW) and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art (SDMA), formally known as the College Art Gallery, resulting in the long-term loan of CPW’s permanent print collection to SDMA.

In 1996 CPW’s collection was officially transferred and continues to be cared for, exhibited, and researched, in the Museum’s state-of-the-art storage facility. To celebrate this 10 year milestone, the Center For Photography at Woodstock, in collaboration with the Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz, presents Relationships: a Ten Year Bond, selections from CPW’s permanent print collection, organized by SUNY New Paltz museum studies students.

This exhibit evolved from an annual class project. Each semester, SDMA Director, Neil C. Trager, assigns his museum studies students the task of designing a virtual exhibition from the collections at SDMA. This year, Trager’s students created exhibitions from CPW’s permanent collection of over 1,500 photographs and CPW agreed to showcase the best student exhibition project as CPW’s fall exhibition! Three teams of students produced exhibitions that were juried by Trager along with CPW’s Ariel Shanberg and Kate Menconeri. While all three proposals were very impressive, SDMA and CPW selected an exhibition that focuses on the theme of relationships, inspired by CPW and SDMA’s partnership.

Our goal in organizing the exhibit, Relationships: A Ten Year Bond, is to celebrate the affiliation between two art institutions, the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz and the Center for Photography at Woodstock, who for the last ten years, have collaboratively utilized and cared for CPW’s permanent print collection of over 1,500 photographs.

To reflect the importance of the bond between these two institutions, we curated an exhibit of photographs from CPW’s collection that demonstrates the concept of both building and maintaining relationships. As we examined each image in the collection’s database, a number of photographs revealed the many meanings and concepts that relationships can hold in daily life.

The first group of photographs, Humans and Nature, examines the diverse relationships people share with their environment. Featured artist, Ofer Wolberger captures a remarkable image of trash, strategically placed in a circle, surrounding a man-made trail. The manufactured product, displayed in an undomesticated wilderness, opening into a domesticated human pathway, speaks to the complex bonds between humans and nature.

The second theme in Relationships, One with Self: The Internal Bond, invites the viewer to consider the relationship one has with the self. The subject matter within each of the photographs is open for interpretation, but we felt that all of them evoke powerful visual messages and demonstrate specific internal bonds. Perhaps the people in the photographs are experiencing internal struggles, or the photographer is conveying their personal vision. One powerful image in this section is a self-portrait by Judith Black, Dad and Self, April 20, 1990. In selecting this piece we were interested in the mirror, placed in the background of the photograph, as it is a provocative demonstration of our internal bonds, for a mirror never tells a lie.

The third group in our selections, Humanity, presents the connection between individuals and community. These photographs summarize the idea behind the exhibit by stressing the significance of inter-personal relationships. Angela Cappetta displays the interconnection of people in the image Unbraiding, New York City, 1996. Each woman is connected literally by a strand of braids, a look, a smile, and even in the placement of the subjects, there is a circle. The links between the women in this photo are present from every engaging angle.

The fourth gathering of photographs, Our Link with the Past, illustrates the relationships between our past, present, and future. Whether it is through family, religious practice, or the possession of an artifact, each individual has a relationship with his or her past. One of our favorite photographs in this group, an image of a city street by Leland Bobbe, shows the contrast between past and present: an old invention is thrown into the chaotic, fast-paced world that exists today. Another stand out image is by photographer, Larry Fink, titled Family Thanksgiving, 1972. The print links the tradition of large families gathering for a wholesome Thanksgiving dinner, while inviting a curious smile into the present. The interesting stare of the elderly woman sits in the center at eye level, as if directly in front of the visitor. This angle invites the viewer into the image and creates an alliance between the past of the picture and the present of the smile.

The fifth and final set of images, Bridging Culture: Our Global Community, directs our attention to the relationships between countries and cultures in our modern global world. These photographs are meant to represent the overlapping of cultures and comment on both the differences and the commonalities. As each culture comes into contact with another, it will leave something behind and take something new. While reviewing the images, we came across many photographs that expose the consequences of globalization and international cultural relationships. One image that we are attracted to, Young Boys With Mickey Mouse Ears, Yunnan Province, China, 1990s, by the extraordinary photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, presents a perfect picture of the intersection between overlapping cultures. Incorporating both East and West, this image displays a compassionate look at a bridge between two diverse cultures.

Our main goal in the creation of this exhibit is to invite the visitor to contemplate existing relationships and to think about the complex bonds that unite us in a new provocative way.

– Anna Bierkamper & Hallie Chase

Relationships: A Ten Year Bond was curated by Courtney Booth, Anna Bierkamper, Hallie Chase, and Lauren Alpert, with assistance from museum intern Rikki Lerman

CPW extends its thanks to all the students who participated in this project and to the students who created this exhibit. A special thank you to everyone at SDMA who helped make it possible; Neil C. Trager, Bob Wagner, Wayne Lempka, & Judi Esmond.