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Big Gallery Séance: chacun à son goût
© 2010 Darrell Taylor        Some rights reserved.

Continuing my didactic series of very large-scale photocollages, I made Big Gallery Séance during the summer of 2010. The impetus for the work was the rediscovery of a photo album left to me by my mother, Denzel Taylor. My parents moved back to their parents’ hometown in Oklahoma after my father’s job as a worker at the Sinclair Oil Refinery in Coffeyville, KS, was lost on the closure of the refinery (which efficiently polluted Kansas across the road from the house where I was born). I was ready to begin junior high school-- in 1949. Dad worked a series of jobs in local factories, and, to augment his suddenly reduced income, my mother took a job as cashier/stockgirl  in Tallent’s Supermarket, owned and run by people from her church.  After a couple years in the grocery, she went to work for the local bank, where she rose to Vice-President.

During her time at Tallent’s Denzel made a photo album of most of the deliverymen and salesmen who provisioned the store. The year was 1952. Denzel was 38. She used the old Kodak folding bellows camera that we had used since the early ‘40s—posing the guys full-frame, often with the delivery vehicle in the background. They may have been made from affection. They may have been simply a memory aid for names and faces.  In any case, the pictures preserve a year in space and time in an uncanny way, celebrating the easy sociality of the “road warrior’s” style and livelihood.

So this exhibit of my mother’s photos is a séance of sorts—an attempt to communicate with a year in her experiences in the era of Truman and Eisenhower, Joe McCarthy and Willy Loman.. Given the history of “standing” portraits by such artists as August Sander, Walker Evans, Irving Penn, Dorothea Lange, Richard Avedon, Mary Ellen Mark, Cindy Sherman, and many others, however, this is a séance in a supplementary sense: an acknowledgement that photographic  “ghosts” walk among us, populating our inner image-repertoire, affecting our perception of every human being who catches our attention or our gaze. Just as we begin to see the world through Antonioni’s eyes for hours or days after seeing his stylistically transformative films, we sometimes identify people in specific contexted encounters as “a Sander,” “a Walker Evans," or a “Brassai.” So was Denzel an artist? Was Sander, like my mother, simply a documentarian in an earlier year? What merits exhibition and critical acclaim?  Women with high school educations did not get--or even think of--photographic exhibitions in Oklahoma in the early 1950s. But there is something there in her photos owed to her eye, her rapport, her sensibility.

I could not resist commenting on the range of tastes in play in the “gallery world,” of course, and it is satirically obvious that my taste does not run to Velvet Elvis. But, one must admit that the “image repertoire” of the Sunday Art Fair crowd may be as meaningful to them as Vermeer or Cartier-Bresson are to me. “That girl behind the bar had eyes just like a Keane painting!”

Meanwhile, enjoy the show, and the ghosts of shows-past, who wander among us unbidden. The sepia-tone “ghosts” in the image include photographic subjects from works by August Sander, E. J. Bellocq, Julia Margaret Cameron, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Irving Penn, Mary Ellen Mark, Cindy Sherman, Richard Avedon, and Diane Arbus.

About the Image: it is a digital "collage" of several hundred individual pictures and picture fragments, combined into one image in Photoshop. The original image file weighs in at over 4 gigabytes--42,000 pixels wide, by 6,000 pixels in height with more than a hundred layers active at any given stage of development. Printed at 300 dpi, the picture is twelve feet wide. I have reduced the size by a third for web display.

Copyright © 2010   -   Darrell Taylor