I had the extreme pleasure of going with Lori Vrba to visit Frank Konhaus and his outrageous photography collection at the beautiful home that he and his wife created here in the heart of Chapel Hill. Frank is a fine photographer himself, but his photography collection was simply overwhelming. His joy in this work is readily apparent and quite contagious. He has amazing pieces scattered throughout their well-appointed and architecturally stunning house as well as a separate gallery dedicated to a specific artist. While Lori busied herself scribbling down the names of artists she wanted to learn more about, I mostly stood around slack-jawed.
The Konhaus family are great supporters of the arts and many deserving causes, but one unique thing they do at the home they call “Cassilhaus” is an artist-in-residence program. Artists of a variety of disciplines spend time in the guest quarters, doing whatever they please, the only requirement being to do one event that engages the local community. I realized quickly that I could do an entire multi-week residency just to have the time to digest the work in Frank’s collection. I guess my part of that pipe dream would be to then speak about the work????
One of the aspects of contemporary photography that fascinates me is the seemingly unending variations in which artists are using photography. Ways that break out of the traditional photo behind a matte in a simple frame style, mixing photography with so many other media, expanding into 3 dimensional objects, pushing and pulling and twisting the conventional processes. It reaffirms my belief that I work in the most creative and expressive medium, one filled with mind-boggling talent. It brought to mind the joy I had in blindly experimenting, certainly at the early stages of my photographic discoveries, but really a desire that has recurred throughout my career whenever I get the urge to break out of that straight, street photographer mentality. Frank and his wife have coined a term, “Prerivative”, which I adore. In a nutshell, I understand it to mean —work by an artist done in a unique, fresh new style that didn’t really break through and gain attention until another artist takes that method to new heights. Perhaps then attuned viewers may look back and say “Oh, so and so was kinda doing something like that back when.” Delightful. For me, because I am just another self-absorbed artist, some of the work in Frank’s collection made me think of all those experiments I did. I see brilliant work by an artist and think, oh my goodness, I recognize that as a possible conclusion to that path that I started and abandoned. It gives me great joy to see how the minds of such creative people have carried these ideas to such heights. For myself, I recall that my own sojourns were sometimes just to see if I COULD do sometthing, if it were possible, if I could do it in the darkroom without causing brain damage. I wasn’t always successful, as many will attest to, no doubt. Occasionally I would do enough of this work for it to make sense to show it somewhere. Far more frequently, it was just for me. Once I had figured out how to do something then I was done… off to the next thing.
When I mentioned to Frank that I had this “art hangover”, his advice was that the only cure was to look at more photography. I figured what better while I was thusly inspired than to unearth some of these experiments and look at them again. For better or worse, I will share a few of these.