It was a night of two exhibitions from artists David Hye Kim and Naimar Ramirez. Both are photographers who are completing their M.F.A. in photography at SCAD and neither is native to Savannah.
Those that came out in support were fellow M.F.A. candidates or artists from the ever-growing art community in Savannah. Most have witnessed the creation of these works from their inception and their excitement for their colleagues was palpable in the cool October air. Whether intended as metaphor or to be taken literally, both of these exhibitions are explorations of space and place.
Transplant, on display at Oglethorpe Gallery, is the work of David Hye Kim. Large photographs, left unframed are larger metaphors for immigration. The trees he photographs are transplanted from their original environment to an urban landscape that is foreign and distant from their native roots. Here they stand, isolated and vulnerable, most without leaves to protect them.
Each photograph is taken at different times of day and at different times of the year. Viewing the photographs, one after the other, is like talking a walk around the block, but it is a journey that takes you further than expected. Through streets that are never the same, you find that you have wandered through France, California, Georgia and Korea.
One of the first photographs that you encounter when you enter the gallery is a lonely winter landscape with falling snow. There, along the empty street, is a tree covered with the white of winter. Although it is not fully grown, its crown barely reaching the awning behind it, it cannot be ignored. This solitary tree whose branches are heavy with snow softens the harsh environment of broken sidewalks, shattered doors and boarded windows.
Walls, the background to all of these photographs, are often fortified with closed doors and shut windows. To some onlookers they may seem impenetrable, but to JeeYun Keating, "Despite the loneliness of the trees and the darkness of the shadows, there is a sense of something that can be overcome." While not always fully grown, the trees that stand in front of the walls show more strength than the structures whose barriers they cannot seem to breach.
Throughout Kim's photographs the trees never fully assimilate to this foreign land. They stand alone, surrounded by concrete. Their shadows, cast on the building and walls behind them, seem to be reflections of an environment that is not always welcoming.
In a country concerned with ever changing immigration policies this exhibition gives voice to the other side of the story and allows us to remember that, like the trees, we are all strangers here in one way or another and we all must grow no matter what our environment.
At Non-Fiction Gallery, Naimar Ramirez displayed her Impressions, a collection of photographs and paper. The gallery space is warm and is accentuated by the earth tones of creams, browns, grays and greens. Although there is a set of blinds that hangs in the front of the gallery Ramirez reveals that the blinds were created last. They are what remain of a mask that she could not finish.
Ramirez is interested in reciprocity, shaping her artistic world from the world that shapes her. The art that she creates is always about place and the transience of Savannah is represented in the impermanence of the material she uses. Her work also demonstrates the indexical relationship of photography and sculpture. On one side of the gallery are photographs of masks that are suspended within frames the artist made herself. On the other side are paper imprints of her immediate surroundings.
The masks are made from exposed concrete, peeling paint and Spanish moss taken from sculptures that Ramirez created with materials from her immediate environment. Despite the two-dimensionality of the photographs, they remain sculptural.
There is stillness in these images that is found in the quietness of their closed eyes and mouths. Each figure reminds viewers of Picasso's belief "the beauty of the world is in knowing how to close your eyes." In silent testimony these inanimate objects show that there is not always a need for animation.
On the opposite wall paper impressions of trees, vinyl siding, brick and chair rails are suspended in square and rectangular frames. These impressions were created after her decision to no longer make masks. These simple yet complex paper sculptures are derived from the direct contact of different surfaces with paper and they demonstrate her love affair with materials, especially paper. They are reflections of her environment, subtle glimpses into her world and they are on display until October 29.
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