Continuum: KCAI Alumni Photography
new work by graduates from 1975 - 1979
Most of us that have attended the Kansas City Art Institute have fond
memories of our time spent there. Activities, both in and out of the classroom,
gave us a sense of community. Students, and often faculty, bonded to form
friendships with a mutual support and respect that lasts to this day.
To paraphrase exhibitor Ellen Carey, "Attending KCAI was one of the
highpoints of my life, which has given me cherished memories and a very
good start on my life-long journey as a creative person." Her sentiment
echoes what I have heard from nearly every graduate I've encountered.
We all have occasions to attend school reunions to hob knob and compare
our life histories. But how often is a group of art school alumni, who
worked side by side in the same medium during a particular time, given
an opportunity to re-exhibit together? This event marks the first time
that so many graduates of the KCAI Photography program will be exhibiting
together outside of the school. It also gives proof to the lasting impact
of the Kansas City Art Institute.
I got the idea for this exhibition when, by coincidence, I saw new work
by three other former KCAI graduates in a short time span. I recognized
a familiar KCAI attitude, but their themes had expanded and matured. I
remember the camaraderie of the photography students and thought it would
be interesting to see what everyone was doing now. It seemed natural to
try and put together an exhibit of graduate work from the time period
I was familiar with: 1975 to 1979. Knowing that KCAI was aggressively
promoting a new annual alumni event, I contacted the Alumni Relations
Director, Anne Jordan, for input. Her interest and an offer of support
from her office gave me the impetus I needed to get started. I also contacted
Gary Sutton, the current Dean of Faculty, who taught photography at KCAI
from 1975 to 2001, for assistance in evaluating the submitted work.
In the Fall of 2006, an open call was put out to eighty graduates from
1975 to 1979, of which a respectable percentage are still involved with
photography in some capacity: some work in various aspects of the commercial
realm; some have set up their own business; others have found a place
as technicians; and many are teachers. A very few have found some success
in the art world. By the deadline for submissions, twenty graduates responded
Over 50 photographic works from across the U.S. will be on exhibit. A
majority of the work proceeds from the classic traditions of representational
photography that were taught at KCAI in the 1970s. Many participants have
embraced the newer digital technologies or found other approaches, while
others continue to work with darkroom materials.
At the core of the exhibit are a number of photographers working with
landscape, both natural and urban. Jim Walker's point of view is to look
straight down at the natural world and transform it into a visual pattern
of surface. Chuck Avery offers a selection from his "Landscape of
Progress" series that depicts the development of land by urban growth.
Similarly, my own "Erosion" prints compare the effects of nature
and man on the land. John Parker shows us that a colorful beauty can be
found in a compost heap. Don McKenna's images of trees are about the ordering
of nature within an urban context. Toying with the conventional notion
of photography's "frozen moment," Russell Phillips combines
elements from multiple negatives shot at different times of the same scene.
Karen Glaser shows us large views of underwater scenes, putting a new
twist on conventional landscape photography.
Other traditional genres of photography are also well represented. Tom
Jenkins and Lyle White carry on the mantle of "street" photography.
Commercial photographer Mark Estes and photojournalist Katherine Jones
work in portraiture. Frank Hamilton and Michael Crane each show a series
of nudes, Hamilton's lit by sunlight and Crane's by flashlight. In quite
opposite approaches, Jeff Peter and Leslie Sheryll continue the still
life tradition, Peter with intimate views of flowers and Sheryll with
a mural sized photogram of crushed plastic bottles.
A few photographer’s works are unique within this exhibit. Ellen
Carey has come up with techniques to process 20 by 24 inch Polaroid film
without an image, combining them into colorful wall hangings. Chuck Kelton
has simplified the elements of the black and white photographic process
to give us a two-toned composition. When the call went out for submissions
to this show, Tim Wilson decided to revisit his first KCAI photography
assignment and came up with a group of metaphorical images. Robbin Loomas
has added paint to the surface of her digital prints. And deciding that
the internet would be the best medium to get her work seen by the most
people, Diane Covert gives us "The X-Ray Project," an enormous
collection of x-rays of victims of terrorist bombings.
I hope that this exhibit will be of interest to the public, other alumni
and current students of KCAI. Maybe this event will induce other graduates
to organize their own exhibitions in the future.
I'd like to thank Michael and Rane Cross for the generous use of their
wonderful gallery space and Frank Hamilton for suggesting them. I am grateful
to Anne Jordan and Gary Sutton for encouragement and guidance. And , of
course, a big thanks to all the participants.
Jeff Burk, Curator
KCAI Alumni 1979
Jeff Burk is currently a photography instructor at the College of DuPage
in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.