Virtual Exhibitions at Herron | Virtual-only from Nov. 21 to Feb. 8 Please note: There are only a few more days left for in-person visitation to see the works of David Plunkert, Elizabeth M. Claffey, Rania Matar, and the recent MFA graduates. The Herron Galleries will be closed to the public during the online instruction period from Nov. 21 to Feb. 8. Although you’re not going to be able to visit the galleries in-person during that time, you can take virtual tours of the following exhibitions:
Approaching the stark black and white photographs of Elizabeth M. Claffey, I first thought I was looking at X-rays, due to the sharp focus and luminosity of the images of women’s clothing and undergarments presented.
Claffey’s series “Matrilinear” is one-half of an exhibition titled A Tacit Inheritance that also features the work of Rania Matar, at the Herron School of Art + Design, and supported, in part, by the Aurora PhotoCenter, an Indianapolis based nonprofit organization dedicated to the photographic arts. It’s one of three exhibitions at the School currently on view through Nov. 20, including the graphic design and illustration of David Plunkert, and the graduate thesis work of six Herron M.F.A. 2020 graduates.
The clothing seen in Claffey’s photographs, according to the artist, work as a visual metaphor for the complex weave of women’s relationships that evolve over a lifetime. “Women play many complex roles within the structures of kinship: daughter, sister, cousin, mother, aunt, grandmother; these roles can be fluid and at times overlap,” writes Claffey in the exhibition’s accompanying text.
Claffey is an assistant professor of photography at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Conceptually, Rania Matar’s mother/daughter portraits “Unspoken Conversations” seem to work as a counterpart to those of Claffey’s. One of the more intriguing portraits is titled “Lela and Souraya, Jounieh Lebanon” where you see a daughter standing in profile, a determined expression on her face, while her mother looks on contemplatively behind her. Two paintings, painted by the mother, depict one woman wearing a burqa and another wearing a swimsuit, frames the mother/daughter portrait. The composition hints at the challenges women face in the complex societies of the Middle East, amidst the competing crosscurrents of modernity and religious fundamentalism.
“This exhibition is an example of connecting Herron to local arts communities, in this instance, the Aurora PhotoCenter,” observed Joseph Mella, director and curator of the Herron Galleries.
He continued by saying that “It’s incredibly important that Herron recognizes that we are part of a larger, vibrant community, one that expands across Indianapolis and well beyond. Our collaboration with the Aurora PhotoCenter is indicative of our efforts in community engagement.”
Mary Goodwin, executive director of Aurora Photography and founder of Waltz Books, notes the timeliness of the exhibition. “The message of the show is one that we need to hear now more than ever because the show emphasizes common bonds and the creation of those bonds, through the maintenance of memory and through the lives of women,” she told me in a recent phone conversation.
The Aurora PhotoCenter was founded by Goodwin, Craig McCormick, and Adam Reynolds.
McCormick is an Indianapolis-based architect and photographer and Adam Reynolds is a documentary photographer who has worked as a freelance photojournalist in the Middle East.
“We coalesced around the idea of Indy needing a photo-specific maker space and gallery space,” Reynolds told me.
“We think that Indianapolis is just really filled with wonderful photographic talents,” Goodwin added. “There are a lot of people here who are practicing photographers and we don’t have any institutions that are specifically dedicated to photography. So Aurora is striving to correct that by being a resource that’s exclusively devoted to photography and photographers. We want to have a space that’s dedicated to showing photography, showing new photographic research and also offering educational and professional opportunities for photographers in Indianapolis.”
While Aurora doesn’t yet have a formal space for a studio or exhibitions, they have organized a number of photography shows, collaborating with partner organizations. Its premiere exhibition featured Texas-based Keiliy Anderson-Staley’s tintype photography. The exhibition, which featured dozens of portraits of current Indianapolis residents, opened at Big Car’s Tube Factory artspace in July, 2019.
The opening reception featured a conversation between Staley and the community members who participated in the painstaking process of getting their portraits taken using that 19th-century technology.
“Most of the shows that we’ve done have incorporated artists from different parts of the country,” Goodwin said. “We think it’s important to reach out to the larger dialogue on photography.”