Jamie Carayiannis's "Power" at Non-Fiction Gallery
Jamie Carayiannis's exhibition "Power" was an exceptional capstone to the MFA Photography thesis shows that have wowed audiences for the past month.
Tallying 17 images, "Power" explored the expenditure of energy, specifically addressing the coal extraction process of mountaintop removal and its effects on adjacent communities and ecosystems. Non-Fiction Gallery, south of Forsyth on Bull Street, routinely proves an excellent viewing space for large format photography. "Power" was no exception to that rule, as Carayiannis filled the gallery's wide white walls with a compelling photographic body of work.
Upon entering the space, viewers came to a set of nine photographs of varying size—predominately at a smaller, more intimate scale—in line on the room's right wall. This group documented several performative experiments Carayiannis herself executed. A brief caption, what the artist referred to as "notes on the image," accompanied each work. The first work montaged a sequence of six images of an explosion as a single ounce of explosive material detonated, smoked and cleared. Impelling consideration of scale, its two-line caption noted that ounce's insignificance in comparison to the thousands of tons of explosives that the coal industry uses to irrevocably change life and landscape in the United States.
Similarly, a sequence of images farther down the wall documented the artist as she chopped down a tree, once again drawing attention to scale with a note that remarked on the vast deforestation resultant of the mining industry.
By the end of that initial set of nine images, one was left aching for contextualization: where is this going on? What does mining look like, and how do I connect these experiments carried out at a small, relatable scale with big industry?
Carayiannis quelled such concerns with eight well-crafted, large-scale landscape photographs that hung on the opposite wall, speaking to their counterparts across the room and giving viewers the big picture. Massive rock strata, the earth's guts exposed and blown apart, and hauntingly beautiful, broad views of mining sites placed the information gleaned from the artist's documented experiments into the context of enormous swathes of hollowed out land.
Resisting criticism for its own sake, the performative component of her project implicated Carayiannis in the processes and procedures of consuming resources. "I always wanted to make work about energy and consumption, but I wanted to avoid being preachy," said Carayiannis. "Power" successfully achieved her ambition to investigate the issue, which is particularly close to home for the native of southwest Virginia, while locating her own contribution to the questionable practices of extraction that frame the consumption of fossil fuels.
"Exposed" at Sicky Nar Nar
Engaged art was also on view at West Duffy Street's Sicky Nar Nar Gallery, which hosted an opening reception for the juried exhibition "Exposed" on Friday, May 24. Artists working in a variety of mediums raised awareness for human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Many of the exhibited works called attention to the international sex trade by critically attending to the objectification of women. That metonymic attention to breasts, genitals and other titillating body parts was certainly shocking, and, to that end, succeeded in grabbing the viewer's notice. However, in an era of desensitization, a more subtle handling of the subject matter would have strengthened the exhibit.
"Up for Discussion" at Ashmore Gallery
Finally, "Up for Discussion" took place at Ashmore Gallery's third floor. Among the standout projects at the group painting exhibition was Jon Taylor's "PopTartArt," which were three-dimensional accumulations of a plaster and Jell-o mixture. Apparently executed using a drip application of the wet mixture, the accretions of variously colored plaster recalled some sort of perverse manna from heaven, and was, according to Taylor's statement, "effectively a commentary on our swallowing of highly concentrated artificial sweeteners. The consumer is conditioned to buy color, and substance is sacrificed."
Apropos, as Taylor presented viewers his critical artwork Friday night, conscientious Savannahians prepped for the following day's March against Monsanto. In conjunction with simultaneous international protests, and in keeping with Taylor's art, the march was organized to raise awareness of the major agricultural company's development of GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, and of the under-researched health effects of consuming such bio-engineered products.