Phantom Gallery Show

Recently I installed a solo show at the Phantom Gallery in Milpitas, CA. The show is entitled “Beauty in Transition” and is based on work I have previously discussed in this blog. I recently realized that this work could be considered “Anti-Vanitas”.

Vanitas is an important genre of still life than juxtaposes beauty with symbols of decay. It moralistically seeks to remind one of one’s own mortality; that the pleasures of the day are fleeting. I discuss this in my previous post on the “Vanitas Window Project“.

In the images in this show I hold a mirror to that concept, and seek instead to show how in every stage of life – including death – beauty develops. Instead of fear of mortality I hope to bring a feeling of continuity, optimism and joy.

Beauty often lies obscured and I use a variety of photographic techniques to bring it to the surface, while seeking to maintain a truthful representation of the subject. Some of these techniques are described in my post “DreamLifes“.

Here is an installation photo:

Beauty in Transition Phantom Art Gallery installation
Beauty in Transition Phantom Art Gallery installation

I had previously displayed some of these photographs in 16 x 20″ mats. The images themselves varied in size but were about 10 x 14″. I received some feedback that, for these photos, “bigger is better”. So for this exhibit I decided I would crop all the images to 16 x 20″ and mount them borderless, something I had never before attempted on my own.

It turned out to not be as difficult as I imagined. The fact that the images are isolated on a solid background meant centering the print on the mounting board need not be done with precision. The prints were made slightly oversized and then trimmed after mounting on 3/16″ UltraBoard.

The prints were made on Moab Entrada rag natural 190 gm. The main difficulty faced was protecting the surfaces that were printed with a solid black background. If anything rubbed against the surface, a shiny streak would appear in an otherwise matte background.

Here is a close up of three of the photos:

Three photos from the Beauty in Transition show
Three photos from the Beauty in Transition show

The next question was, how to hang borderless prints? I simply obtained the D-Rings normally attached to wooden frames, removed the screws, and glued them to the back of the Ultraboard. Stringing wire between the loops allowed the photos to be hung on standard picture hangers.

D-loop glued to back of photo mounted on UltraBoard with picture wire attached
D-ring glued to back of photo mounted on UltraBoard with picture wire attached

Some of the photos looked so good on the computer screen, I wanted to duplicate the look in the gallery. I selected one image and built a lightbox for it. I started with a shadow box, and replaced the glass with translucent “Lighting White” acrylic from TAP Plastic. The frame of the shadow box was sufficient to hold the print against the plastic sheet. A small LED spot lighting fixture was mounted to the back of the shadow box in a position that would illuminate the central portion of the flower. Here is the result:

Photograph mounted on a home-made light box
Photograph mounted on a home-made light box

I did an internet search for advice on how to arrange the photos on the wall. Almost every site said something to effect that galleries mounted pictures at the “average eye height” of 58″. One even warned against hanging pictures “too high”. I have no idea where this “58 inch” standard came from. According to the US Centers for Disease Control the average height for Americans is about 5 feet 9 inches for men and 5 feet 4 inches for women. I am 5’8″ tall and my eyes are about 62″ above ground. Fifty-eight inches seemed ridiculously low, so 62″ is where I placed the center of the prints. There was not much advise on horizontal spacing. I used 6″ between prints in a group and 12″ between groups.

Mounting a solo exhibition turned out to be quite a bit of work! But in the end I was quite pleased with the result and happy that people seem to enjoy the work.

The show will continue until May 15, 2015 at the Milpitas Community Center, 457 East Calaveras Boulevard, Milpitas, CA 95035.

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