Worcester Art Museum Exhibits Work of Trend Setting Photographers

(WORCESTER, MASS., NOVEMBER 28, 2001) - Worcester Art Museum highlights the work of three artists exploring a new genre of photography in Staged! Contemporary Photography, an exhibition running Saturday, Dec. 15, 2001 through Sunday, March 24, 2002.

Photographers Gregory Crewdson, Rosemary Laing and Sharon Lockhart, all in their late 30s and early 40s, are leading members of a younger generation of artists who scrupulously stage the scenes they photograph to produce deceptively simple, and believable, images. Artist Gregory Crewdson, a Brooklyn native, creates magical and menacing images of suburbia. Australian photographer Rosemary Laing captures an ivory-gowned bride somersaulting through the sky. California photographer and filmmaker Sharon Lockhart presents complex social portraits of Brazilian villagers.

“While their photographs appear strikingly different, the artists in this exhibition approach their work using a similarly methodical approach, with meticulous planning and control,” said Susan Stoops, curator of contemporary art at the Worcester Art Museum. Crewdson, Laing and Lockhart work in a style similar to that of film directors with actors. They choreograph their human subjects and elaborately stage each scene, resulting in photographs that evoke comparisons to cinematic narrative. To produce his “Twilight” series, Crewdson employed a crew of over 30, including a cinematographer. Laing spent a year scouting locations above the Blue Mountains of Sydney, Australia, before coordinating with a pilot and stunt skydiver to create her “flight research” images. Lockhart, who is also a filmmaker, created a series of ten stills depicting a Brazilian woman, in identical pose and detail, displaying 10 native fruits.

The Twilight Zone
In 1998-1999, Gregory Crewdson used the neighborhoods of Lee, Mass., as the setting for his "Twilight" series, large-scale photographs that suggest paranormal occurrences in a troubled New England subdivision. Admittedly influenced by Steven Spielberg's 1977 film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Crewdson plays with the notion of ordinary people spellbound by unexplainable things.

In Untitled (beer dream), a spotlight beams through the night sky to transfix a boy standing in a littered front lawn, a six-pack of beer dangling from his hand. Another in the series depicts a pregnant woman wading in a kiddie pool, while a figure sitting poolside is cast in streams of light cutting through the darkness. In the shadows, a boy lays eerily motionless on the lawn.

“Crewdson's images marry the seemingly benign and familiar iconography of suburbia with magical yet oftentimes menacing tableaux,” said Stoops. “These constructed scenes reveal a tactility and atmosphere so convincing that we begin to believe something extraordinary may be lurking around the corner of our ordinary lives, too.”

Born in 1962 the son of a psychoanalyst, Crewdson received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the State University of New York in Purchase, N.Y., and a Master of Fine Arts from the Yale University School of Art. Since 1993, he has taught at Yale University. Crewdson has exhibited his work worldwide, with solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Madrid, Stockholm, Tokyo and elsewhere. He is represented by the Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York.

Unbridled Fall
Speed, flight, distance and time preoccupy photographer Rosemary Laing, whose “flight research” series features an unlikely bride tumbling through a vast blue sky. Her images were not manipulated digitally or in the darkroom, but, rather, they required careful planning and coordination with a professional pilot and stuntwoman.

The series of stills defies gravity and suspends time, as a woman garbed in a wedding gown with long brown locks of hair floats over the Australian skyline.

“Laing's bride hovers in a space of uncertainty about the future,” Stoops explained, “somewhere between thrill and dread.”

Laing was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1959. She received diplomas from the Brisbane College of Advanced Education, the University of Tasmania and the University of Sydney, and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of New South Wales. She has exhibited throughout Australia and in New York; Osaka, Japan; and Ottawa, Canada. Laing lives and works in Sydney, Australia. She is represented by the Gitte Weise Gallery in Sydney, Australia.

Faces from Brazil
Staged! Contemporary Photography also features photographs that Los Angeles artist Sharon Lockhart produced in 1999 while accompanying anthropologists on research trips to the Amazon region of Brazil. Working in a serial method and with exacting formal compositions, Lockhart creates complex social portraits that concentrate on the gestures and details of everyday life.

A recent acquisition by the Worcester Art Museum, Maria da Conçeicão Pereira de Souza with the Fruits of the Island of Apeú-Salvaldor, Pará, Brazil consists of 10 chromogenic prints of a woman displaying 10 native fruits, one at a time, the subject and framing unchanged.

“While the fruits are exotic to Western eyes, Maria's middle-aged physique, self-directed gaze and self-assured manner contradict the idea of the naÔve island beauty as the object of our gaze,” said Stoops. “Within this formal order and control, however, Lockhart portrays a spectrum of human expression ranging from the restrained smile to detachment to melancholy.”

Lockhart's work also includes family portraits of the islanders, who were invited to pose and re-pose themselves, and photographs of the empty rooms where the local residents had participated in interviews with the anthropologists. Her work suggests scientific examination and classification of the human subjects while revealing an intimacy and subjective empathy.

Born in Norwood, Mass., in 1964, Lockhart earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute and a Master of Fine Arts from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Her work was most recently the subject of solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. She has also exhibited her work at international venues such as Tokyo, Vienna, Florence, Toronto, Berlin and Paris. Lockhart lives and works in Los Angeles, and she is represented by the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York.

This exhibition is sponsored in part by the BHR Life Companies. Additional support is provided by the Don and Mary Melville Contemporary Art Fund. The media sponsor is Worcester Magazine.


Contemporary Art Forum
Thursdays, Jan. 31 and March 21 (5-7 p.m.)
Join Susan Stoops, Worcester Art Museum's Curator of Contemporary Art, and special guests from the art community for lively, informal discussions about current exhibitions and issues in contemporary culture. Call (508) 799-4406, ext. 3005 for more information. Free. Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609.

Artist's Talk and Reception: Rosemary Laing
Thursday, Feb. 28 (7 p.m.)
In her photographic series “flight research,” Australian artist Rosemary Laing coordinates a pilot and stunt skydiver to create images of a bride sailing and somersaulting through a vast blue sky. In the Worcester Art Museum exhibition Staged! Contemporary Photography, Laing's series is featured along with those of two other artists who are practicing this new genre of staged photography. Meet Laing, and find out the thought and process behind her work. Free. Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, MA 01609. (508) 799-4406.

Museum Background

Opened to the public in 1898, the Worcester Art Museum is the second largest art museum in New England. Its exceptional 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Throughout its first century, the Worcester Art Museum proved itself a pioneer: the first American museum to purchase work by Claude Monet (1910) and Paul Gauguin (1921); the first museum to bring a medieval building to America (1927); a sponsor of the first major excavation at Antioch, one of the four great cities of ancient Rome (1932); the first museum to create an Art All-State program for high school artists (1987); the originator of the first exhibition of Dutch master Judith Leyster (1993); and the first museum to focus its contemporary art programs on art of the last 10 years (1998). The Museum's hours are: Wednesday through Sunday, 11am-5pm, and Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission: FREE for members; Non-members: $8 Adults; $6 Seniors and full-time college students with current ID; FREE for youth 17 and under; FREE for everyone Saturday mornings 10am-noon sponsored by The TJX Companies and Massachusetts Electric Company. For more information, call (508) 799-4406 or visit the Museum at 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.