Local photographer Hannah Altman (Off The Wall: Hannah Altman talks Identity, Richmond, and The House We Build) is not only a brilliant curator of themed photographs, evidenced in the compiling of Imagebox’s April First Friday show, but Altman is also a brilliant curator of the kinds of artists she chooses to collaborate with.
Fellow local photographers Gray Swartzel, Madison Turiczek, Rebekah DePretis, and Brendon Hawkins all bring their own unique voice and eye to the themes of family, love, and loss. But their brilliance does not stop there.
Swartzel, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, derives inspiration everywhere from camp to art historical appropriation, from familial history to his own queer body and sensibilities.
“Overall, I like to think that I use my body as my material and as a vehicle for physical commentary concerning familial history, gender construction, identity fabrication, and sexuality.”
His work featured in the April show presents images from his series, Blood Harmony, which showcases mostly self portraits that tackle different themes within the idea of familial collaboration. In many of the photos is Swartzel’s mother, who is imitated by Swartzel in one photo and who imitates her own mother and father in two other images. The series as a whole opens a particularly interesting dialogue on blood harmonizing and on mother and son relationships.
“In constructing photographs with her, the interior of the house became a domestic stage where we could reinterpret the often-untold history of matrilineage in general and our relationship in particular.”
As he moves beyond collegiate life and evolves in his work, Swartzel hopes to focus on a fusion of photo and video elements.
“I am attracted to the history of large constructed photographs as well as the history of performance for camera, so I can see myself continuing in that direction.”
Madison Turiczek’s work also showcases familial self portraiture, but in front of an uncommon background setting, such as a great aunt’s funeral.
“I decided that I was going to shoot the funeral itself and everything that was going on there because while it makes everybody uncomfortable, I think it’s one of the most unique moments a family comes together for and it’s not something that’s often shown.”
Turiczek finds her greatest inspirations to be her friends, including her close friendship with fellow photographers Hannah Altman and Corrine Jasmin.
“I deal with depression and anxiety pretty heavily and I think that Hannah and Corrine are probably my biggest inspirations because they’re constantly pushing me…always like ‘Hey, let’s work on this project together’, ‘Let’s go shoot’. I think having a strong network of friends really allows me to continue to be inspired.”
Turiczek and Altman specifically share a very close personal and professional bond in which they can come together at any time of day, no matter the number of hours or days since their last conversation, and talk about anything, creative or personal.
“I think that the genuine sister like friendship helps us to not have walls, we’re not afraid to be every type of creative with each other.”
Turiczek now has intentions of moving beyond her photography and more into the realm of installation and tangible art.
“I love making photographs, but I don’t think that what I need to say can be said through just an image.”
This is not the first time Turiczek has thought to use interactive installation art to start a conversation. In a previous work, she used an old bathtub which she painted pink, pink packing peanuts, and mannequin legs she also painted pink to represent where women are most vulnerable, but the strongest—in the bath.
(Photos courtesy of Madison Turiczek)
Inspired by tarot cards (“I’m not very religious, but I’m very spiritual”) and especially the High Priestess, who represents intuition, womanhood, and returning into oneself for guidance and relying on oneself, Turiczek found the challenge to be taking the idea of the card, transforming it into something people would understand, and still fit within the general theme of the show.
“It was honestly probably the most rewarding because at the end, even though it’s a pop up show, you’re still like ‘Wow, I made this thing,’ which is cool.”
By moving forward in this direction and making art that will be tangible and that viewers will be able to touch, Turiczek hopes to build a deeper connection between herself and the viewer.
“If I can make things that are giant and sensory, like overload that makes you feel something both physically and mentally and emotionally, that’s what I’m looking to go towards.”
She also hopes that in expressing her inner darkness in this more tangible way that she will find healing for herself.
Rebekah DePretis is an aspiring psychologist as well as a photographer, having graduated with a degree in psychology in 2017 from Xavier University. Her photography in this show does present almost like a case study in the beautiful innocence of youth.
“In my work, I really strive to incorporate a delicate mix of intimacy, rawness, humanity, and age. I shoot predominantly youth because I find it to be the most honest way to express my vision.”
DePretis’ vision is best captured in the images of youth because she is drawn to the moments in life which are fleeting and formative to us in our youth, despite them not being particularly extraordinary.
A similar sentiment was expressed by Gray Swartzel, who experiences life through the lens of camp, or the attempt to see the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. He referenced Susan Sontag’s Notes on Camp, which acknowledges a potential for the “equivalence of all objects”, which Swartzel has applied as an “equivalence of all moments”. Swartzel hypothesized the only difference between the grand events in life and the impromptu moments is the build up, with the grand events having much and the impromptu moments having none at all. But without any anticipation or expectation, any moment can experienced simply for what it is and not for what the artist wants it to be.
DePretis, unknowing that Swartzel has postulated these ideas, has proven his point. By taking the expectations away from the moments she is capturing, DePretis is showing us her subjects as they truly are—innocent, pure, simple, and beautiful.
The House We Build was DePretis’ first gallery showing outside of a few local art shows and she was thrilled by the turnout and was honored to be showing her work alongside the other talented artists in the show.
“The show was excellent!…A live gallery opens dialogue between artist and viewer…It was exciting to see how strangers react and interact with things I have created.”
Moving forward both creatively and professionally, DePretis plans to continue exploring the human condition and its quirks. In her photography she plans to experiment more with a medium format film camera she recently invested in.
Brendon Hawkins could not be reached for comment on his work, but his images from The House We Build shows an artist who is bold, creative, and unafraid of pursuing the stories and relationships not often represented in traditional media, making him an excellent artist to watch for future projects.
(Work by Brendon Hawkins for The House We Build)
The House We Build was evidently a labor of love, from the love of the work created down to love amongst the creators for one another. The show opened on April 6 at Imagebox in Bloomfield and remained up for the month of April, until the next First Friday in May.
First Friday is a gallery crawl spread out among galleries in Bloomfield featuring local art and is replaced every month with new work from fresh new perspectives.
Madison Turiczek is a huge advocate for First Fridays and for artists supporting their local art community.
“That’s why it’s awesome because where your stuff was just hanging, you get to see someone else’s other awesome creation from that point on, which is sick.”
Continue supporting Pittsburgh’s local art scene by supporting these artists and by going to local gallery crawls like First Fridays.
Hannah Altman: https://www.hannahaltmanphoto.com
Gray Swartzel: http://www.grayswartzel.com/
Madison Turiczek: https://www.madisonturiczek.com
Rebekah DePretis: http://rebekahdepretis.com
Brendon Hawkins: https://www.the14-40.com/
First Fridays: http://www.pennavenue.org/unblurred