The Material Image: Surface and Substance in Photography

NEW PALTZ — As we emerge into the brave new digital age, what will become of photography? In 50 years’ time, will a gelatin silver print look as antiquated as a Victorian tintype? Taking a critical look backwards, The Material Image: Surface and Substance in Photography, an exhibition of photographic works selected by independent curator Beth E.Wilson, opens on June 8th at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, located at the State University of New York at New Paltz. The exhibition continues through August 7 with an opening reception on July 1, 2005 from 6-8 p.m.

Through exposure to a wide range of photographic processes, from cyanotype and daguerreotype to platinum and gelatin silver – some hand-tinted, others solarized, still others classic ‘straight’ images – viewers of the exhibition will be prompted to reflect on the physical nature of the medium. Looking critically at the visual and formal effects that have historically been enabled by various photochemical processes, and with an eye toward the way emerging digital technologies are changing the way we understand the medium, the exhibition seeks to clarify exactly what “photography” means to us today.

“Featuring more than 135 works, including photographs by William Wegman, Doug and Mike Starn, Tina Barney, Edward Weston, W. Eugene Smith, and others, images in the exhibition are drawn largely from the permanent collection of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art (SDMA). Included in the collection is the permanent print collection developed at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, (housed at the SDMA since 1995). Beth E. Wilson is a photo historian who has taught at SUNY New Paltz since 1994. Her dissertation (currently in progress) explores the surrealist documentary photography of Lee Miller, war correspondent photographer for Vogue magazine during World War II.

A member of the International Art Critics Association (AICA), Ms. Wilson has written reviews and feature articles for Tema Celeste, Arts Magazine, and other publications, and is the monthly art columnist for the Hudson Valley regional magazine Chronogram. Her art commentaries have also aired monthly on WAMC-Northeast Public Radio since August 2004.

About the museum: The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is dedicated to collecting, researching, interpreting, and exhibiting works of art from diverse cultures. The permanent collection spans a period of almost 4,000 years. Areas of specialization include 20th century paintings and works on paper, Asian and Pre-Columbian art and artifacts, metals and photographs. SDMA has a special commitment to collecting and exhibiting important works of art created by artists who have lived and worked in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. The museum is a major resource in the Hudson Valley serving a broad-based constituency from both on and beyond the New Paltz campus.

Hours and other information: Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sunday 1-5:00 p.m. Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, university intersession, and national holidays. Museum information: (845) 257-3844 or on the Web at SDMA accommodates the disabled. Admission is free