POSTED ON JANUARY 5, 2011:
A conceptual exhibit with a child's eye opens this week
Precise or Not. Meierís work is highly unique as his unconventional techniques lead to intuitive and beautiful photographs. The end results are surprisingly conceptual and create the feeling of a narrative without any specifics that lend themselves to a resolute understanding of what is taking place.
Year after year, the University of Tulsa Master of Fine Arts program attracts an intimate, yet highly talented group of artists with their own unique vision and style. Among 2011's class of MFA candidates is photographer and sculptor Joshua Meier. Meier will show a recent body of work entitled, Coping, at the Tulsa Artist Coalition (TAC) throughout January. The show opens 6-9pm Friday, Jan. 7th with a chance to meet the artist. The exhibit is on display through Jan. 29th.
In Coping, Meier redefines children's traditional role in art as a metaphor for innocence by reversing the roles between the subject and the viewer. His work asks the question: "What does the child think about us and what we have become, as the viewer, as adults, as mothers, as fathers?" A father of two himself, Meier developed the inspiration for this series of work after discovering that many of the photos he had already been taking involved images of children. Hardly cute or endearing, Meier's images are darker, sometimes walking the line of disturbing. Upon discovering what had been a subconscious muse Meier began to analyze the relationship he had with his 4-year-old son. "I began wondering how he views me," Meier said. "How was my son coping with me as a father?"
The work that has resulted from this introspective wondering is unique and energetic, yet possesses the same moody photography techniques that Meier brings to much of his work. The resultant imagery depicts children being given a voice to express their own feelings regarding the nature of their existence. A series of 64 portraits of children yelling back at the viewer will comprise half of Meier's show at the TAC. The other half will consist of several large and small-scale photographs of scenes involving children that also revolve around the theme of children finding their voice. The imagery is compelling yet slightly uncomfortable as children assume a role we are unaccustomed to in art. What will likely make Coping even more unsettling is how the small size of the gallery will put the viewer in closer proximity to these images than they might prefer. With portraits on one side and scenes on the other, "it will be interesting to see how the two sides balance," Meier said.
Meier's work is a testament to his love of materials and the way he leaves his hand in everything he creates. Before entering the Master's program at TU, he had already gained a lot of experience working as a professional photographer. In 1999, he completed a career training photography summer program at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography in Montana. Meier then worked several years as a photographer before returning to his home state of Oklahoma and earning a Bachelor's of Fine Arts from Rogers State University. Immediately after earning that degree he entered TU's Master's program and hopes to acquire a teaching position after graduating.
While successful in strengthening his portfolio, Coping, is a side step from the type of innovative photography Meier has been developing while in graduate school. He shoots and develops his photos through traditional techniques using a large format camera that shoots 4x5 inch sheet film. To add authenticity to this old fashioned method of photography Meier uses lenses that are up to one hundred years old. "The camera has no shutter on the lens so I use my hand as the shutter," Meier said. "The process I have created is very intuitive. I have to be in touch with the light, the materials and myself." By using old materials and less calculated techniques he intentionally creates opportunities for "happy accidents" to occur in his work. "A lot of photographers are very precise," he said. "I'm sort of the opposite."
Precise or not, Meier's work is highly unique as his unconventional techniques lead to intuitive and beautiful photographs. The end results are surprisingly conceptual and create the feeling of a narrative without any specifics that lend themselves to a resolute understanding of what is taking place. Dissecting the human condition is one of the strongest motivators of his work as the scenes he creates often speak to the universal feeling of struggle and loneliness. The open-ended interpretation Meier intends for his work allows for each viewer to connect with what they see in a different and personal way.
In conjunction with his intuitive photography techniques, the other component of his work that sets it apart is his use of sculpture. To achieve a desired scene he builds his own props through techniques such as wood bending to create organic forms that lack specific details that reveal what they are, yet function beautifully in his invented world of creativity.
After Coping, Meier plans to complete his thesis exhibition that will be shown at the Living Arts along with the other graduating MFA candidates on April 1st. For this body of work, Meier is pursuing ways to extend his use of sculpture into his exhibition by creating an installation that allows the viewer to enter the world he has created in his photographs that extends beyond the wall.
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