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VESTIGES: Sculpture and Photography

by Susan Nanny, Marsha Sanguinette, David R. Hanlon, Jim Sabo, Mark Florida

Found wood Sculpture juxtaposed with Photography of Relics

On View
October 3 - November 14, 2009


OPENING NIGHT RECEPTION
Saturday, October 3, 2009
7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

Read Dr. Cooper's essay: Breath on a Mirror.

PHD Gallery will host Vestiges, an exhibition of five artists whose work depicts the evidence of time's passage. Found wooden sculpture by Susan Nanny and Marsha Sanguinette is juxtaposed with the photography of David R. Hanlon, Jim Sabo, and Mark Florida.

Susan Nanny and Marsha Sanguinette retrieve river wood, scrubbed and fossilized by water. They scrape, file, and polish it, until it lives again in evocative biomorphic forms. Ranging in size from smaller wall pieces to fourteen foot obelisks, Nanny and Sanguinette purposely keep their interventions on the wood minimal in order to preserve its original integrity.

Having undertaken documentary photographic work in the Middle East for a decade, David R. Hanlon's photographs record the fallen Ancient Monuments of Syria and Jordan. These dramatic black and white photos remind us of the rich ancient history of a region that has become a political tinderbox.

Jim Sabo reverses the notion of finding and documenting relics and instead creates them. He digitally merges photographs of nudes with found textures, creating what appear to be ancient living statues.

Photos by Mark Florida depict contemporary urban decay that is familiar in our daily lives. Florida photographs the St. Louis city landscape focusing on textures and details of buildings and the often overlooked corners within the larger urban backdrop.

The work of all four artists illustrates the passage of time, and the beauty that can exist in the legacy left behind. Dr. Ivy Cooper of Souther Illinois University Edwardsville observes that the works are: "captivating evidence—fleeting, tenuous, melancholy—of lives and structures once thought to be permanent and unchanging." (see all of Dr. Cooper's essay below.) 

Like Breath on a Mirror...

Vestiges: The thin, almost inconsequential evidence of a thing having existed. The material world sloughs off vestiges like skin. The works collected in PHD Gallery’s “Vestiges” are just that: captivating evidence—fleeting, tenuous, melancholy—of lives and structures once thought to be permanent and unchanging.  

On long, solitary walks, Susan Nanny and Marsha Sanguinette discover wood that has been worked over by the Mississippi River. Once formidable branches and tree trunks, the pieces they find have been reduced to mere echoes of their former selves. Nanny and Sanguinette sand and polish the wood to enhance its natural character. But the pits and other surface ephemera tell the story of wooden flesh subjected to the water’s ravaging force, beaten by time into strikingly anthropomorphic fragments that stretch forth like muscles.  

David R. Hanlon photographs ancient monuments of Syria and Jordan, while Mark Florida focuses his lens on more recent ruins, the decaying buildings of St. Louis. The structures possess a quiet dignity that time and human folly can’t efface. Jim Sabo makes digital hybrids—fantastical ruins wrought from images of flesh. His seductive forms occupy a space somewhere between the organic and the inorganic, the living and the dead, where time passes, but slowly, imperceptibly.  

What binds the works of Hanlon, Florida and Sabo is not only the beauty of the ruin. It’s also the use of the photograph, which is the quintessential medium of the trace. Photographic images cling uncertainly to their paper, like breath on a mirror. Their filmy surfaces won’t hold up to the passage of time. They’ll eventually be reduced to ghosts of themselves, like the enchanting monuments and ruins they depict, and like the yearning fragments Nanny and Sanguinette retrieve on their river walks.

Ivy Cooper, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

*****

Collaborative artists Susan Nanny and Marsha Sanguinette salvage wood that has been fossilized by the churning muddy water of the Mississippi. Their scultpure results from the meticulous labor of scraping, sanding, filing, and polishing of the wood.

The artists consciously do not add wood stains, or wax to the wood, opting only for a light tung oil to enhance its colors. They scrape away only the soft, dead parts -- rotten bark, branches and layers of decay. More layers exfoliate when Nanny abrades the wood with an orbital sander and a dremmel. Afterwards, Sanguinette uses sand paper, small files, and cloth to sand some pieces by hand -- the only way to reach the many holes, crevices and caves that mark them. They are careful to preserve the original integrity and character of the wood, uncovering its sprit and giving it new life.

While Sanguinette previously spent years sanding small sticks and walnut shells, Nanny was drawn to larger pieces of wood that she found on her solitary walks along the Mississippi. Nanny began taking her uniquely shaped wood to Sanguinette and the collaboration developed from there.

Susan Nanny, an Episcopal priest for 20 years, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but has lived in St. Louis for 18 years. Marsha Sanguinette, a St. Louis native, holds a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She worked in the sports department of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 22 years.

David R. Hanlon is a Missouri native and has been a practicing photographer for 25 years. The images he has created during this time have concentrated on the characteristics and issues of landscape, architecture and portraiture. From 1990 - 2001 Hanlon was the chief photographer of the archaeological excavation at Tell Tuneinir in Syria, displaying and having his work published in venues throughout the United States and the Middle East. His photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the University of Kentucky Museum of Art, and numerous private collections.

Hanlon is an Associate Professor of Art at St. Louis Community College at Meramec and has taught at the college since 1990. A photographic historian, researcher and writer about early photography, Hanlon recently had an essay entitled "Souvenir de l'Orient: Leavitt Hunt's Album of Wonders" published in an exhibition catalogue produced by the Bennington Museum. In 2006 he organized and curatored two exhibitions, Russell Sturgis: Critic, Historian and Collector, and Of Spirit and Form: The Monuments of France in Photographs by Edouard Baldus and Mederic Mieusement, at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis. In 2009, solo exhibits of "American Interiors" and "Origins" were featured at the Sheldon Art Galleries, St. Louis, and phd Gallery, St. Louis. respectively.

Ancient Monuments of Syria and Jordan (1990-2001)

"Photography, like archaeology, deals with the discovery, perception, and an "uncovering" of information hidden within many layers of existence. In assembling this portfolio it was my desire to convey several facets of the rich historical tradition of the countries of Syria and Jordan, seeking out the details and spaces within an around ancient monuments to provide the viewer a vantage point often different from the more common 'generalized' views of the sites. Within this context, the atmosphere and graphic nature of light was one of my main tools of interpretation.

Having undertaken documentary photographic work in the Middle East for a decade, this collection of images was selected from a grouping of nearly six hundred prints created during often multiple explorations of ancient remains, often in remote locations or along the middle Khabur River basin (now presently flooded). The abundance of well-preserved Roman, Byzantine, Crusader and Islamic structures in this region provides a wide opportunity for discovery and analysis, as well as the possibility of a greater understanding of the cultural foundations of these modern nations."
- David R. Hanlon

Jim Sabo creates photographic montages by digitally blending the human form with an array of creative textures. Originally, the technique was done with two slides, a normally exposed primary slide and an overexposed texture. The two slides were sandwiched in one mount and projected onto a screen. Sabo extrapolated from this technique and has translated it from slide film to a digital process. Using photo imaging software, Sabo replicates the effect of simple slide sandwiches but moves it farther by using complex layering, masking and blending techniques. Working intuitively, the artist sometimes visualizes the completed work and then shoots the individual pieces to be combined. More commonly, however, he shoots the parts independently and makes the pairing later. The work started as a study of the relationship between person and environment and has evolved into a study of aging, and poses questions surrounding legacy.

Although Sabo is primarily self taught in photography, the artist earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Missouri at Rolla. His work has been influenced by Bob Kolbrener, Freeman Patterson, Andre' Gallant, and Jerry Uelsmann. Sabo has received numerous awards for his photography from such groups as The Greater St. Louis Art Association, Art St. Louis, and the Central West End Art Fair.

Mark Florida is enamored of the architecture of St. Louis, and has incorporated it into many of his recent works, both in painting and photography. He photographs time worn buildings in St. Louis focusing on small details, textures, and fallen grandeur. Though he sometimes digitally modifies his subjects, the works shown here are unaltered black and white prints.

"There is something about discovering the lost treasures found in abandonment. These are photographs of places which at one time made the things we all used in daily life. Now they are just dusty weed grown shells, quiet for half a century, waiting for someone to tell their story. Abandoned buildings and urban decay say as much about us as our suburban expansion and new construction do." - Mark Florida

The artist, who owns and operates Gallery Framing in the Delmar Loop, has been an artist and photographer in St. Louis for 25 years. The former engineering graduate is perhaps best known for his photographs of St. Louis landmarks and high profile events, including the statue of King Louis (under the Arch!), the Forest Park Balloon races, and the Botanical Gardens.

He became serious about painting and photography in 1966 at the age of 12, after entering an art competitions and having his first solo show at Coldwater Elementary School. In that same year he won his first painting competition and sold three paintings at $35 each, and has been doing art ever since. He has worked as both a professional photographer and portrait painter, but now concentrates on doing fine art which comments on the times in which we live. He has lectured on plein air painting and art conservation at Universities and to Art Groups in Missouri. In 1999 he co-founded the Missouri Plein Air Painters Association, and as its Exhibition Manager, helped to promote this painting style throughout Missouri. Florida also plays bass guitar and does vocals for Boo Boo Davis and the Blues Cats!

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