"Finding the American South"

Gina Costa | Jan. 2, 2013 | Snite Museum of Art

Upcoming Exhibition: Touching Ground: Finding the American South

20x24 Polaroids by Jennifer Trausch

January 13-March 10, 2013


Jennifer Trausch - Polaroid images of the American SouthJennifer Trausch (American, b. 1977), Hunter, 2008, Polaroid. Collection of the artist.

NOTRE DAME, INDIANA – The Snite Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Notre Dame will open a new exhibition on Sunday, January 13. The exibition is called Touching Ground: Finding the American South; 20x24 Polaroids by Jennifer Trausch.

The public is invited to a reception on Sunday, February 10, 2:00-4:00 p.m. Trausch will give a gallery talk about her exhibition at 3:00 p.m. This reception and gallery talk are free and open to the public.

From 2006 to 2011, large-format photographer Jennifer Trausch took the refrigerator-sized 20 x 24 inch Polaroid camera from the predictable, comfortable confines of its studio home out onto the winding roads of the rural American South. Led from town to town by word of mouth, instinct, and caprice, Trausch worked steadily to understand some of the South’s essential truths through the strange moments she happened across in each small place: at fairs, auctions, dances, bars, and rodeos; in homes and shacks, open fields, swamps, forests, dirt roads and highways. The massive, beautiful contact-print images that Trausch made in these myriad places show a conflicted South: hopeful and menacing, at rest and crackling with life, defeated and defiant.

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Prior to and throughout the project, Trausch was director of photography at the
20 x 24 Studio in Manhattan, where for eight years she worked with photographers and other artists to realize their visions on the 239-pound analog 20 x 24 camera. By nature a restless, wandering documentary photographer, she rebelled against her everyday life in the studio, where ideas were typically brought to the camera. Trausch turned this relationship upside down by bringing the camera out of the dark studio into the fray of the outside world.

Historically, only a few projects have been made with the 20 x 24 camera out in the elements: namely, Neil Slavin’s documents of modern-day “Britons,” William Wegman’s playful vignettes of Weimaraners in Maine, and Julian Schnabel’s free and loose record of his personal life and surroundings. These projects challenged the camera and the medium, and they gave Trausch faith to break all of the camera’s rules, trusting that she could work through the logistical hurdles of shooting outside and naturally find her way.

Touching Ground, Trausch’s own endeavor with the 20 x 24 camera, began very loosely when a last-minute cancellation left a camera available for one entire week, a rarity at the time. Trausch jumped at the chance to use it, rented a lift-gate truck to transport the camera and a few supplies, grabbed assistant Kim Venable, and hit the road ready to shoot anything. Upon leaving New York City, they headed south, partly because Polaroid films favor warmer temperatures, and partly because the South was an area of the United States that Trausch knew almost nothing about firsthand.

Jennifer Trausch uses one of the five 20 x 24 Polaroid Cameras hand-built by Polaroid in the late 1970's. These enormous wooden cameras resemble early large format cameras, but are unique in that the camera back includes a large pair of rollers to process instant films as the photographer works. The film negative and paper sheet are processed together with a chemical reagent, activating the silvers in the negative to migrate to a white receiving paper. The layers of the film are then peeled apart to reveal a one-of-a-kind image.   Trausch's favorite aspect of the camera is that it beautifully merges the incredible detail of a 20 x 24 negative with the soft & painterly quality of a Polaroid diffusion transfer print. 

This exhibition was made possible by the Humana Foundation Endowment for American Art, which was established through the vision of Mr. William C. Ballard, Jr.

The Snite Museum of Art is located on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, near South Bend, Indiana. Museum hours are 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday; 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; and Sundays 1:00–5:00 p.m.  Admission is free.  Museum information is available at 574-631-5466 or at the Museum’s website:sniteartmuseum.nd.edu. Driving directions and parking information are available at http://nd.edu/visitors/directions/.   Find us at inthebend.com and facebook.com.

 by Daily Domer Staff

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