Digital photography has been transformative for the medium as an art form. As it has become increasingly ubiquitous, more and more contemporary artists are choosing to work with more historical processes like daguerreotypes and tintypes. Now through April 16, the Newport Art Museum (NAM) is hosting a gallery show of two local photographers who have separately created series of contemporary topics portrayed using 19th century photography techniques.
New Light Through Old Windows showcases the art of Providence-based Lindsey Beal and Wakefield resident (and photographer for our sister publication) Ron Cowie – both are also teachers. Although they use vintage methods, their subject matter is mostly different, save for a few overlapping areas. In her Venus series, Lindsey employs techniques, including ambrotype and alumitype, to capture images of paper sculptures she created using Paleolithic European and Middle Eastern “Venus” figurines as inspiration, evoking archetypal feminine power and mystique. Ron, on the other hand, shows landscapes as a metaphor for psychological terrain in his Leaving Babylon series, using a large format camera and then platinum as his medium. His other series, Inventory, is a moving tribute to his wife, who passed away in 2008.
NAM curator Francine Weiss suggested Lindsey and Ron to fill a space between other gallery shows, being already familiar with their work and surprised that neither had exhibited at the museum yet. “I’ve never seen either of them do anything digital or in color,” Francine notes.
The antique feel of the particular space is perfect for the show, she feels, and she has curated some additional objects on loan from the Newport Historical Society which will be displayed alongside the contemporary artwork, including actual daguerreotypes and other vintage photographs and portraits of Newport landscapes and residents. A couple of Lindsey’s original paper sculptures will also be shown under bell jars on a mantle in the room.
“We’re synthesizing the antiquarian impulse along with contemporary issues,” says Francine. “It helps to make that mental leap between yesterday and today.”
Newport Art Museum
76 Bellevue Avenue, Newport.