Two photographers explore abstraction at Griffin Museum
Instead of just reflecting what they see, Dorothy Tribeman and John D'Agostino take photographs that make your flesh tingle and your eyeballs pop.
In separate exhibits at the Griffin Museum of Photography, they take different routes to create abstract images that evoke sensory reactions rather than merely mirroring the external world.
Instead of slicing eyeballs like Salvador Dali, Tribeman and D'Agostino photograph swimming pools and stained glass to open viewers' eyes to unexpected possibilities.
Their different works might challenge viewers only comfortable with conventional narratives. But together they offer distinctive and interesting approaches to abstract photography.
Museum Executive Director Paula Tognarelli acknowledged "abstraction can be difficult" but said both shows should broaden visitors' horizons.
"When you listen to music, which has no text, you can navigate it more successfully. I encourage viewers to focus on their feelings on seeing these images rather than the meaning," she said.
Using her lens like a waterslide, Tribeman immerses viewers in the cool, clean silence of swimming pools around the country. In "Water Works," the Lexington artist transforms the elemental simplicity of water in a swimming pool into a study of light and shadow.
Her 11 color prints range from 20-by-16 inches to 26-by-24 inches and depict water not as something that merely fills a pool but a three-dimensional presence interacting with color and light.
Tognarelli described Tribeman as "an emerging artist" who transforms swimming pools into a thought-provoking visual exercise.
"It's all about abstraction," said Tognarelli. "You can feel water touching you. Looking at Dorothy's photos, all your childhood memories of other swimming pools are forthcoming."
Tribeman earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Montserrat College of Art in 2007. She has had several solo and group shows.
Describing her work, Tribeman said, "trying to capture the images of water is akin to trying to hold it in your hand, or trying to stay afloat in an element in which you could sink and which is surely over your head."
In "Empire of Glass," D'Agostino attempts to jolt viewers beyond everyday vision into what he calls the "abstract sublime."
He photographs fragments of Tiffany glass to create artful, iridescent images.
Explaining his approach, D'Agostino recalled finding boxes in his parents' basement of the prized glass recovered by his grandfather 75 years ago from the East River. Once coated with gold and silver foil leaf and wrapped in old newspapers, the Tiffany glass pieces over time were covered in decomposing matter that created what Agostino calls "wonderful biomorphic forms."
Describing his work, D'Agostino said "The ravages of time marked on the surface of the glass combine with layers of color underneath.
"This creates a dialog between Tiffany's original use of the favrile glass 100 years ago, and my reinterpretation of it today in which the methods of collage and improvisation, borrowed from abstract painting, are essential," he said.
Tognarelli compared D'Agostino's photos to Romantic landscape paintings and abstract expressionism.
"It is also one photographer's attempt to examine his bloodlines, his connections to his family and all those artists and photographers who led the way before him," she said. "...They're very emotional, very sublime. I think they're unlike any one of the photos we've shown here before."
Since first seeing Tribeman's and D'Agostino's work a year ago, Tognarelli invited them to show at the Griffin to support local and emerging artists and provide a visual alternative to earlier exhibits of photojournalism which focused on grim global trouble spots.
"You could look at (Tribeman's or D'Agostino's) photos on two consecutive days and have different responses," observed Tognarelli. "The viewer becomes the emotional Geiger counter reacting to their images, one day with tenderness, the next day with terror."
The Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester, is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Monday.
Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for seniors. Admission is free on Thursday.
Dorothy Tribeman's "Water Works" and John D'Agostino's "Empire of Glass" will both be on view in the Griffin Gallery through June 21.
For more information, call 781-729-1158 or visit www.griffinmuseum.org.