"Alexandra Opie: Echo"
April 18 – May 17, 2015
Alexandra Opie is an associate professor of art at Willamette University, where she teaches photography and electronic media. An exhibition of her recent work entitled "Alexandra Opie: Echo" opens April 18 and continues through May 17, 2015, in the Atrium Gallery at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art.
In her most recent body of work, Opie explores the tension between the old and the new by combining one of the earliest photographic processes, the tintype, with present-day technology and subjects. Contemporary figures assume the attitudes of those in antique images while drawings of nineteenth-century dress are superimposed over them using in-camera masks.
“These echoes of the past capture a distinct change in how we occupy space," Opie says. "Because our lives are increasingly saturated with digital media, and images proliferate rapidly, it is both surprising and eye-opening to delve into labor-intensive forms of photography that yield materially intense physical results.”
Opie's work has been exhibited throughout the Pacific Northwest region and in national venues.
These photographs examine and confuse temporality in photography by embedding echoes of past clothing and employing early photographic practices (the tintype form, the contrived studio setup) in contemporary portraits. The careful layering of past and present yields uncanny, curious objects. When the artifice fails it yields the awkward “failed seriousness” of camp, the desperation of the street performer, the unease caused by the sad clown. The photographs recapture the vulnerability of early portrait subjects, required as they were by long exposure times to perform themselves in such a careful, unnatural way.
This exhibition is part of Willamette University’s ongoing tradition of presenting Art Department faculty work next to the Art majors’ annual thesis exhibition. The pairing fosters continuing connection between student and faculty research. Connecting students to faculty research provides them with valuable pre-professional experience and deepens their relationship with faculty and to their field of study.
The work in this exhibition grew out of a collaboration I undertook with a student in the summer of 2012. Funded by the Mellon Foundation, Art major Ariel Wilson (‘13) and I participated in an interdisciplinary summer research community focused on photography. Our collaborative project focused on learning to make tintypes. This rewarding research experience expanded my practice to include historic forms and facilitated the development of this body of work.
I would like to thank the many members of the Willamette community who volunteered to pose for my photographs. I am also deeply grateful for Willamette’s funding of faculty research, which made this work possible.
Tuesday Gallery Talk with Alexandra Opie
Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public
Alexandra Opie Recent Work
© 2014 Alexandra Opie. All rights reserved
96 pages, black/white illustrations, 7.5” x 7.5”
Available at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art
To order, call: 503-370-6855
Financial support for this exhibition has been provided by general operating support grants from the City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax funds and the Oregon Arts Commission.