An of Evening of Polaroids and Still-Life at Wriston Art Galleries

On Thursday, March 31, Wriston Art Center Galleries held an opening reception for the exhibition of works by artists Jill Casid, Jim Brozek and Paul Vanderbilt. The exhibition will be open until May 8.

The event commenced with a speech by Casid, who described the meaning and philosophy behind the collection of Polaroids photographs she presented, the most prominent of which was “Kissing on Main Street.” The photographs, according to Casid, were meant to challenge society’s sexual norms, while also standing as a pivotal point in art and the exposure of photography.

“These image boxes are not just intimately scaled to the size of a palm,” explained Casid. “They activate a close encounter and are also doubly-intimate in their promise of exposed content, revelations of self and the forms of relations that they perform, again, only partially.”

Among Casid’s other Polaroid collections that were presented at the exhibition were works such as “Four Sisters,” which conveyed a narrative on the hidden sexual life of nineteenth-century women. Other pieces of hers were “Spinster Style,” “Shame’s Glove” and “On a Mattress Cover,” all of which shared the artist’s trope of rethinking sexuality and photographic exposure.

When asked about what implications her works may have in terms of the ideology and atmosphere of art at Lawrence, Casid claimed that there are many ways to answer such a question because of the nature of art in itself.

“The potential separateness of the gallery space from the other spaces on campus reinforces an idea that art is a separate, entirely specialized activity,” claimed Casid. “I would argue,” she continued, “that one of the most important aspects of the ‘arts’ in ‘liberal arts’ is that it is motored only by creativity, which is vital for any educational environment, something which an educational environment cannot successfully function without.”

Sophomore and Spanish and Studio Art double major Natalie Cash shared her thoughts on Jill Casid’s work. “I think that challenging public opinion is really smart,” she said. “It’s a great way to get attention if the artist is doing something positive. She has a really good angle because public display of affection is a widely popular and questioned act no matter who you are.”

“For the disapproving people,” Cash added, “her work is a little bit of a wake-up call because they need to become more accepting and there’s nothing they can do to change that at this point. This is probably one of my favorite works I have seen in the gallery so far – but that’s probably because I’m a photographer.”

Some of the other works displayed in the exhibition included the still-life photographs of Livija Patikne in the collection titled “Certificates of Presence, the Photography of Livija Patikne” from artist Jim Brozek. Even though the photographs were not taken by Brozek, he found himself “identifying emotionally” with the photographs of Patikne when they were handed to him by Patikne’s apartment caretaker after her death in 2001. Wishing to share the images with the public, Brozek submitted the photographs for public display.

“I found it interesting how the images seem to shift the longer you look at them,” shared Clair Abitz, a guest at Lawrence. “Regardless of what angle and distance you look at the images from, you are bound to see something different each time.”

Paul Vanderbilt’s memoir also made its way to the exhibition. The collection of arts celebrated Vanderbilt’s eye for the unconventional. It was organized by several groups, including the James Watrous Gallery, Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters and the Library-Archives Division of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

“I really like the way all the photographs were displayed,” Abitz added to her account of the experience, “it almost forces you to take more time with each one. It’s a very unique exhibition.”

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