“Place: Two Photographic Interpretations” intertwines two distinct art shows at the Fairfield Arts Center. Featuring the work of Maria Carola and Steven Steele Cawman, the show takes two already strong exhibits and made them more interesting by alternating opposing perspectives on the world.
I naturally had lots of questions Maria and Steven, and they were kind enough to humor me…
Q: How did the PLACE exhibit come together? Did you know Steven before?
Maria Carola: Steven and I met three years ago as volunteers at FAC. We had both moved
to Fairfield from New York City and immediately gravitated to FAC as a way of connecting with other artists and creative people. Steven and I quickly became friends and it was evident that while our photographic styles were very different, they shared much in common. We submitted a proposal for PLACE two years ago thinking our work and style would juxtapose well.
Q: You both have both worked in advertising and marketing. Does that experience inform your work today?
Steven Steele Cawman: Perhaps, but not too directly. I think the process of creating is so different when it comes to making work for yourself rather than for a client. The best part about my experience in advertising and marketing was the opportunity to collaborate with other creative individuals on projects. It was really a team effort–designers, copywriters, photographers, stylists, etc so one person never really takes sole ownership for the project. In regards to my photography, it is a much more personal process. Now, I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to choose the locations and subject matter of my work.
MC: Very much so. I studied Psychology in college and worked in the field briefly. I was very moved and affected by what I saw in the clinical setting and quickly switched into advocacy work to try to effect change in policy and legislation. The experience was intense and working as a publicist in the arts took some of the heat off and allowed me to be creative and effective at the same time. As a literary publicist, and then later on my own as a freelance arts publicist, I had the pleasure to work with writers, publishers, artists and arts organizations.
I related to publicity from the perspective of disseminating information. For me, it was and is all connected. One of the hardest things for an artist or creative person to do is market themselves. Photography is another form of communicating and learning how to distill and relay an idea, thought, or concept is essential to that communication.
Q: How did you get those shots of the High Line back when it was a derelict elevated railroad track?
MC: I snuck up onto the tracks. It was terrifying and exhilarating. Laden with camera bags and equipment I negotiated over, through, under, around fences, barbed wire, tracks, vegetation, peopleŠ.it was amazing.
Q: Did you originally envision pairing Venice and rural America in one show?
SSC: Not really. Maria and I talked about the show and landed on the theme of Place. If you look up the word “place” in the dictionary it has so many definition, ranging from spacial location to temporal existence. And there is something about photography that is both spacial and temporal. You are really capturing not just the geographical location as a subject but it is also capturing the specific moment that the exposure was taken. Plus, our work is very different from one another, while we are both capturing places in our work, stylistically and subject-wise there is quite a difference. So the theme of “Place” was a nice overarching theme that allowed us to both showcase our work. So we both went off and did our thing based on the theme.
Q: “Sidewalk Trash” was particularly engaging. Can you explain (again) how you got those images?
MC: “Sidewalk Trash” was taken with a multi-lens lomographic camera. There are four lenses and one shutter so you end up with this subtle, split second movement between images. The final image is actually one 35mm print comprised of four small images. It reminds me of a flipbook.
Q: I noticed “Umbrellas” had three dots on it, indicating it sold three times, last night. What do you think attracted visitors to the image, Steven?
SSC: I think there is something about the geometry to that piece that really pulls people in. The strong blue stripes of the umbrellas set against the neutral color of the sand has a nice pop to it.
Q: Putting together such a show must have left you frazzled. Were you able
to enjoy the show?
MC: I was absolutely able to enjoy the show. Steven and I work very well together and the process of putting the show together was actually fun. We were very pleased with the exhibition and the opening was a fantastic culmination of new and old supporters. I had a wonderful time.
Q: Putting together such a show must have left you frazzled. Were you able to enjoy the show?
SSC: I had a great time at the opening. Yeah installing and layout a show is very time consuming. There was a wonderful mix of people in the gallery on Friday, new faces and familiar ones.
Q: Steven, how did you come to juxtapose your images with Maria’s? What was the process?
SSC: Well, we independently selected our images and had them printed and really everything literally came together in the gallery. We laid out the show several different ways before installing the show as you see it now, at one point we separated our work so that she filled one half of the gallery and I filled the other half, but with the difference in sizes and printing substrates it just didn’t feel balanced. So we ended up mixing our works throughout the gallery–we moved things around a lot. I like the way the two different printing processes work next to one another and there is something about pairing her images with mine that makes the scale of some of my landscapes seem much more grand and remote.
Q: What are you working on now?
MC: I am working on a follow-up to the High Line series since it has been turned into an elevated public park. I am also working on a project on local working farms, a series of abstracts and a documentary film about the late New York City restaurateur Mickey Ruskin.
SSC: Right now I am planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands over Thanksgiving and hope to put together show based on that.