September 2, 2015 - September 27, 2015
Twenty years ago, writer Peter Rock worked as a security guard at an art museum. While on the job, he entertained himself by making up stories for the photographs, paintings, and objects on display, jotting down notes surreptitiously on small pieces of scratch paper. On his breaks and at home, he would flesh out these narratives in earnest. Now, Spells harkens back to this earlier project, as Rock has written a fragmentary novel in response to work of five of his favorite photographers—Sophia Borazanian, Sara Lafleur-Vetter, Shaena Mallett, Peter Earl McCollough, and Colleen Plumb—whose prints will be displayed on Blue Sky’s walls throughout September. Rock’s loose narrative, Spells, which will also be integrated within the exhibition using audio and video components, gleans details from each photograph in order to construct various moments in the lives of three young friends and other seemingly unconnected individuals, all of whom are brought together by mystical circumstances.
“The images are not merely illustrations for a pre-existent story, then, but the conditions and possibilities and limitations of how they proceeded. The images came first. One way to think of it is that the stories herein, and the larger story they become, were already embedded in the photographs. My attention and intuition acted as a kind of excavation that brought them to the surface, into words.”
Peter Rock is the author of six novels, most recently The Shelter Cycle and My Abandonment, and a story collection, The Unsettling. Rock attended Deep Springs College, received a BA in English from Yale, and held a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford. His stories and freelance writing have both appeared and been anthologized widely, and his books have been published in various countries and languages. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, he is a Professor in the English Department of Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Rock’s novel Klickitat will be published in 2016, and he has been awarded a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship to pursue Spells.
Sophia Borazanian is a photographer living and working in New Orleans. After attending Ohio State University to study photojournalism, she moved south to document her life in Louisiana. Inspired by the Art Deco architecture of her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, she is now making large collages of her images for murals on buildings throughout the city of New Orleans.
Sara Lafleur-Vetter is a multimedia journalist currently based in Oakland, California with an interdisciplinary degree in Anthropology and Russian from Reed College. Lafleur began her career in St. Petersburg, Russia, and later moved to Luxor, Egypt to work for the American Research Center there. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where she was recently awarded a 2015 Dorothea Lange Fellowship. Her work has appeared in CNN Traveler Magazine, The St. Petersburg Times, Fodor’s Travel Guide, San Francisco Magazine, and the East Bay Express.
Peter Earl McCollough is a freelance photographer and filmmaker based in Oakland, California. In 2008, he graduated from the photojournalism program at Ohio University after serving in Iraq in the U.S. Marine Corps. His work has been featured in Wired Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and The San Francisco Chronicle, among other media outlets.
Shaena Mallett is a documentary photographer, filmmaker, and teacher based in North Carolina. Her current project, Farmsteaders, is a short documentary film intimately narrating the daily experience of one family as they struggle to run a sustainable dairy farm in the devastated food economy of rural Appalachia.
Colleen Plumb is a photographer based in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a BFA in Visual Communication from Northern Illinois University and holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, where she is currently an adjunct faculty member. Plumb has exhibited nationally and internationally, with solo shows at the Union League Club and the Historic Water Tower Gallery in Chicago, Jen Bekman Gallery in New York, Dina Mitrani Gallery in Miami, and van Straaton Gallery in Denver. Plumb’s work is in the permanent collections at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and the Southeast Museum of Photography, among others. Her images have also has been featured in Ireland’s Blow Photo Magazine, Photo District News, and on TIME’s LightBox and The New York Times LENS Blog. Radius Books published Plumb’s first monograph, Animals Are Outside Today, in 2011.