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David Politzer
2012 Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship Winner

David Politzer’s photographs look at nature with a sense of humor but with a sense of longing too. It’s not a longing for nature itself as much as it’s a longing for nature to have a more profound meaning to us. There’s nothing “red of tooth and claw” here for us anymore, just pleasant decoration that we are so used to that we don’t see it any longer. David does see it, though. In his photographs, this simulacrum of nature is rising in intensity, moving from the background to the center stage. It’s as if the elevator Muzak has been turned up to 90 decibels so slowly that no one but David has noticed.

As the human-built environment encroaches on and shrinks wildlife habitat, animals have had to learn how to go about their business, adapt and live in our landscape. In these photos of David’s, they are on our walls, on our chests and looming over our parking meters, but the bald eagle doesn’t care about our national anthem, the cardinal doesn’t care about our sports teams and the sunflower pays no attention to the phone mounted on it. In these photos of David’s, the illusory depicted nature overwhelms the mundane reality of these offices and parking lots with a delicious combination of Magritte and Rousseau.

This exhibition is a subset of David’s project, “When You’re Out There.” The other half of this project is on view now at the Lawndale Art Center. The show at Lawndale consists of videos and photographs that explore what it means for us to go out into the natural world (maintaining our consciousness), whereas this exhibition looks at what it means for nature to manifest in our world (maintaining its consciousness).

Isa Leshko
2012 HCP Fellowship Winner

When a photographer picks up a camera, he or she is surrounded by an entire world to point her camera at. She will pick a small rectangle out of all of this possible everything and say “this is what I’m paying attention to – this is what’s on my mind – this is what’s in my heart.” Artists understand the world by creating metaphors, the same way that scientists understand the world by creating scientific models. The strongest and most soulful art is achieved by using a balance of intellect and intuition. An artist will be drawn to something without knowing why, then she will bring her intellect to those first images and the resulting insight will enable her go back out and take images that are more profound. Each round of photographing and listening to the images takes her deeper into the heart of the issues and questions that haunt her.

In Isa Leshko’s case she explains, “I began this series shortly after I had spent a year in New Jersey helping my sister care for my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. When my mother got ill, I made a conscious decision to not photograph her. However, caring for her had a profound impact on me and I knew the experience would influence my photography. Shortly after I had returned from New Jersey, I encountered a blind elderly horse that was living on a relative’s property. I was mesmerized by this animal and spent the afternoon photographing him. After reviewing my film, I realized I had found a project that would enable me to sift through my feelings around my mother’s illness.”

We are surrounded at all times by “unimportant things” that have a lot of important things to say to us if we stop to look and think about them and with them. One can use a geiger counter to find concentrations of something powerful and invisible, but the best photographers, like Isa, use a camera the same way. Isa has indeed found something powerful and invisible here. I find myself in deep conversation with these (self-)portraits of elderly animals, looking in from an unexpected new vantage point at complex issues of mortality and what it means to be human.

-Christopher Rauschenberg, Juror