Jack Spencer
New Work:
This Land, Gestures, Portraits

Opening Friday, May 30, 2008
Exhibition Dates: May 30 - July 5, 2008

Andrew Smith Gallery presents an exhibit of photographs by Jack Spencer titled Recent Work: This Land, Gestures, Portraits, opening Friday, May 30, 2008 with a reception for the artist from 5-7 p.m. Spencer is nationally acclaimed for his photographs of people and landscapes. His umber-hued, selectively colored prints glisten with a soft tactility seldom seen in photography, achieved through unique technical processes devised by the artist.

A prolific photographer, Spencer produces over fifty new images a year. Since 2003 he has been traveling through the United States, Canada and Nova Scotia photographing on back country roads, adding to his series, This Land. Last summer he traveled 6000 miles, working in regions as different as Cumberland Island, Georgia and northern New Mexico. While human occupation is suggested in some images, virtually none of these works show people. Weathered houses, brush fires, cloud swathed mountains, horse herds and buffalo describe the spirit of place.

Gestures and Portraits are two recent series that explores aspects of the feminine. There is an unabashed beauty in these soft focused photographs of beguiling women who whirl, curtsey and unfurl gauzy fabrics. Young girls spin like ballerinas on top of music boxes and tantalizing women beckon. Not all is revealed in this candle lit, nocturnal realm of the imagination where faces are hidden by masses of hair, flesh is concealed by voluminous petticoats blown by invisible breezes, and backgrounds are obscured in darkness. Spencer chooses jewel box colors: claret reds, old lace yellows, milky blues and smokey limes, to create an amorphous world of brides, courtesans, fairy queens, dancers, maidens, and temptresses. Spencer's early years as a painter are evident in these photographs, along with his fondness for paintings by Degas, Vermeer, Carravagio and other masters. The exhibit continues through July 5, 2008.

Photographs from This Land, Gestures, Portraits

"What Was," 2006
Edition of 10
29.75 x 30" Epson Pigment Print

Printed in subdued hues, the photograph shows a young woman seated at a table behind a large glass vase containing two wilted roses. Her portrait hanging on the wall behind her depicts her as being classical and refined. Her hair style and gown suggest she is a character from an earlier era in which well bred women were demure and submissive. But her gaze directed at the viewer is slightly confrontational. Handling a dead rose she extends her middle finger outward very subtly as if to say, "think again."

"Iris and Horse Apples, Nashville", 2006
Edition of 10
30" x 44" Epson Pigment Print

In this sepia image a somber young girl wearing Elizabethan clothes stands under a huge tree with her hands folded. Around her feet are orange-sized fruits that have fallen from the tree. They suggest a transformation has occurred from one state of being to another. We have entered an unfamiliar fairy tale, not Disney, but Grimm, in which the fate (and disposition) of the heroine is uncertain.

"Blue Dress"
Edition of10
29.75" x 29.75" Epson Pigment Print

Within a square format a slender, young girl gracefully lifts the skirts of her ice-blue petticoat. She has been caught in motion, the contours of her body and face dissolved into ghostly trails. Her blond hair, bare torso and face are mere suggestions. This solitary, misty being could be a fragile doll or a fragment from a dream.

Edition of 10
28.75" x 34"
Epson Pigment Print

A half clad woman reclines in an empty room of muted greens, browns and blacks. Her face is hidden by her rippling hair whose texture mirrors the satin folds of her gold dress and thick belt. The image evokes photographs by the turn of the century New Orleans photographer E.J. Bellocq who photographed prostitutes in the Storyville district. In those old prints the unexpected beauty of the prostitutes contrasts with the physical deterioration of the glass plate negatives. Spencer has created the impression of deterioration in this photograph, filling the background with speckles, splashes, faded and burnt colors.

"Iris #2, 2006"
Edition 2/10
29.75" x 29.75"
Epson Ultrachrome Ink Print

A girl dancing with wild abandon flings a bright magenta banner over her head that drifts alongside her body. Her cone shaped white dress tinted with yellow and green seems lit from within. She casts a shadow on a wall inches away, but otherwise the background is undefined and randomly textured.

"Running Horses, South Dakota," 2007
Edition of 20
14" x 46" Epson Pigment Print

Capturing an emotionally charged moment, Spencer photographed eight horses cantering through a pasture. He cropped the image to a narrow rectangular format, added the digital equivalent of distressing marks to the surface and printed it in an umber-brown color. The final effect is a moving image resembling a frieze on an ancient wall.

"6 Horses in Fog, Montana," 2005
Edition of 20
20" x 29.75" Mixed Media

In this tranquil, timeless image taken on a foggy day, six horses stand motionless in lush, russet grasses that blend imperceptibly into the blue-gray distance.

"Weather, South Dakota," 2007
Edition of 10
30" x 45" Epson Pigment Print

Somewhere in the western U.S. Spencer photographed an encroaching weather system. In this stunning photograph the dark land is a horizontal, featureless mass at the base of the photograph. Angry looking storm clouds in various shades of smokey blue-gray and orange-yellow swallow up the last of the afternoon daylight.

The photographs in the exhibit were taken with a Canon ID Mark III digital camera. Spencer coats his images with varnishes to create a lustrous surface.

Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Jack Spencer currently lives in Nashville. His works includes his poetic document of the Mississippi River Delta that was the subject of his first book, Native Soil (1999), and Apariciones, a series made in Mexico filled with magical realism. His photographs are in major museum and corporate collections throughout the United States and abroad. In his spare time Spencer works with young men displaced from the Sudan who now live in Nashville, photographing them and creating a foundation called "Lost Boys of Sudan."

Liz Kay

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