In my own casual way—as easy as lifting my phone and tapping the screen—I photograph the same people all the time—my boyfriend at the steering wheel of his truck, my sister doing something as inane as brushing her hair. I return to these people time and again, and in an offhand sort of way, they are my muses. On Wednesday, July 20, at CFA Downtown Studio (113 Fourth Street NW), Making Muses opens in conjunction with PhotoSummer and in collaboration with Flash Powder Projects, a retreat-based initiative to explore and expand the photographic medium. A compendium of 27 local and national artists, the show highlights contemporary portrait photography and, as such, it spotlights the muse and the synergistic work between the person in the frame and the one who photographs it. “[To have] something that gives you the energy, the drive to make work, that burning thing that says I need to be with that person, I need to make pictures, I need to capture that second,” David Bram, who curated the show along with Jennifer Schwartz explained,“I think that's important.”
For me, it's my partner and my family. For Bram, it's his two small children. For the photographers who are putting their muses on display in the exhibition, the muse takes many shapes. Liz Arenberg, for example, photographs her sister with moving closeness. “There's freedom with her sister, who she trusts and loves. I think [in these photographs] the tension of society is gone. I'm me and you love me because of who I am,” Bram elaborated of Arenberg's photos and the intimacy that is palpable within them. Alternatively, Nathan Pearce roves the party, camera in hand, honing in on subjects as he passes. “He moves back and forth between the quiet and the loud,” as Bram put it. Sarah Moore, a photographer who currently resides in Berlin, turns the camera on herself, creating self-portraits infinite in their variety, as changeable as moods. The photographs of Making Muses are as unique and divergent as the faces they represent, each one tempered by the gaze of the photographer and later, the viewer.
No matter where you cull your inspiration from, an unflagging wellspring of encouragement and creativity can be drawn from the exchange of work and ideas between artists. In that way, Making Muses is the perfect place to find insight and vision.
“A lot of times as a photographer, I look at a piece and say, 'Oh, I wish I would have made that,'” Bram said. And that was the guiding principle for the curation of the show—to hang the pictures that made him and Schwartz stop in their tracks, side-by-side in the same gallery space. “There are things [in portraiture] that just pull you in … For me, it's the gaze. It's the look. That's the thing that grabs me and makes me stop.” The relationship between the artist and the muse—an artist, too, in their own right—is communicated through gestures, expressions, lighting, posture, composition and a multitude of simple, quiet elements that coincide to create a moving whole.
“We started making books last year … we host retreats. We thought this was the missing part,” Bram said of the traveling exhibit, which was shown at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver before its tenure at CFA, and will next travel to Delaware. Bram, who lives in Albuquerque, will host an opening reception on July 22 from 6-8pm along with several of the artists showcased, some local, some visiting.
No matter where you cull your inspiration from, an unflagging wellspring of encouragement and creativity can be drawn from the exchange of work and ideas between artists. In that way, Making Muses is the perfect place to find insight and vision. “There's no politics. There's no drama … There's nothing complicated about it. Just really beautiful pictures.,” Bram posited. And that, no matter how your frame it, is an inarguable fact. Making Muses finds a home in Albuquerque for just two weeks, so find your way Downtown before July 30 to access these undeniably beautiful works of contemporary portrait photography.