The art of collaboration: ‘Getting Layered’ offers a different look at self-portraiture

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 11:06 AM

Go and Do
WHAT: Opening reception for exhibit “Getting Layered”
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 14, 6 to 9 p.m.
WHERE: Frank Gallery, 109 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill
ALSO: “Sound and Image Conversations,” a multimedia event related to this exhibit, will be held Dec. 20 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Frank Gallery.

During a recent walk-through at Chapel Hill’s Frank Gallery, photographer Barbara Tyroler talked about the importance of collaboration and the exchange of ideas. Both ideas are central to a new exhibit she is presenting at Frank Gallery, “Getting Layered: 6 Women Collaborate on Self-Portraiture.”
For this exhibit, Tyroler asked five artists who work in different media – Mirinda Kossoff, jewelry; Katherine Armacost, paint; Peg Bachenheimer, encaustic paint; Luna Lee Ray, mixed media; and Anita Wolfenden, fiber art – to create self-portraits based on photo sessions with her. After the photo portrait session, each artist took Tyroler’s photo of them and transformed it into another kind of self-portrait using elements of their different media.
Many of the artists ended up focusing their portraits on family, rather than their art, Tyroler said. Kossoff, for example, created a portrait that expresses her love of her granddaughter, and their love of water. Kossoff took elements of Tyroler’s photograph of her in water, and changed it with collage and other media.
Ray chose to be photographed in her garden “which is her creative outlet,” rather than her art studio, Tyroler said. She points to a self-portrait Ray did based on some photographs Tyroler took of her in her garden.
For Armacost’s portraits, she and Armacost collaborated on the original portraits – which feature photographic images from Tyroler and paint from Armacost. Armacost then took those collaborative portraits and, in Tyroler’s words, “tore them apart” in collages that sometimes echo, and sometimes just suggest, the original portraits. “I think that’s really the most complete collaboration,” Tyroler said.
Bachenheimer’s encaustic works express her love of family, and Wolfenden made two-dimensional paper collages from her portraits. Tyroler also as included some self-portraits in this exhibit.
In a written statement, she discusses this collaborative process. “For me, a lot of this work is about chasing color and form, then going beyond what I see in front of the lens in order to find out what I sense is happening within the internal environment, to begin a conversation, to evoke feelings rather than provide narration.” In this process, her statement continues, “partnerships are formed, inspiring yet another layer of collaboration, an active, open, and eager exchange of ideas.”
Tyroler’s work includes wedding and family portraits, as well as fine art projects. She and her husband, David Cooper, a video artist and Elon University professor, create animage photography that focuses “on the art and business of families,” according to Tyroler’s website. Tyroler teaches a course in Environmental Fine Art Portraits at Duke University’s Center for documentary studies, and she stresses to her students the importance of collaborating and working with the subject when they produce their portrait projects, she said.
Tyroler is the Frank Gallery’s community outreach coordinator, and one of the missions of the gallery is to be “a site for exploration and experimentation.” In keeping with that mission, on Dec. 20 as part of this exhibit the gallery will present “Sound and Image Conversations,” a multimedia event. Carrboro music ensemble mahaloJazz will perform live improvisations based on the portraits. Nic Beery, a videographer, will have his camera at hand and will produce live video of the musicians, which will be projected on visitors to the event.
“This is a complete experiment,” Tyroler said. “We have no idea what will happen. We’re excited about bringing multimedia into the gallery.”