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Culture & Communication

Alice Q. Hargrave: Paradise Wavering

Essay by Allison Grant, interview by Kendra Paitz
Poems by Sandra Binion and Ralph J. Mills Jr.
Excerpts from Rebecca Solnit’s book A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Daylight Books, May 2016


Paradise Wavering by fine art photographer Alice Q. Hargrave (Daylight Books, May 2016) is a photographic stream of consciousness that travels through lush flora, fauna, and tropical biospheres, exploring the fugitive nature of experience, time, light, and the photographic medium itself.
By interspersing her current photographs with re-photographed vintage source material from her own family archive of 8 mm films and snapshots, Alice Hargrave melds together past and present, while alluding to an uncertain future where environmental angst pervades.
Leading us through prairies, mangroves and tropical forests, the photographs are inspired by the heroic landscapes of 19th century photography, vernacular family pictures and the first color processes such as Autochromes. Hargrave embraces, but also re-contextualizes and re-imagines, the clichés of documenting family travels, where photography’s role historically was to harness the exotic, capture « Kodachrome » moments, and often shoot from a moving car — the classic American Road Trip.
 
Hargrave seeks the sublime in moments on the periphery of daily life, and her liberal, intuitive use of vivid, visceral color inscribes emotion, revealing how photographs literally color memory and perception. Color itself becomes a subject, leaving behind its mood and patina as a shroud.
A subtle subtext of environmental crisis pervades Paradise Wavering, beginning with the book’s opening image Tropical Storm (2014), a haunting photograph in which dark storm clouds gather ominously on the horizon of a picture perfect beach scene, suggesting the potential for a catastrophic event. In Biosphere #1 (2015), a thick grove of tropical trees has an unfamiliar ashen hue that suggest images of a post-apocalyptic landscape.
 
The book is interspersed with pictures of African wildlife taken by Hargrave on a trip to Africa in 1982 that she re-photographed for this project. These images foreshadow the rapid disappearance of animal populations and their habitats, a reality that is in stark contrast to the work’s tranquil beauty.
Hargrave  does not give us specific information about the places she photographs allowing her work to traverse space and time like the stuff of dreams and memories. In her essay in the book, curator Allison Grant writes: « ... unmoored from the specificity of a named place, the images are not beholden to previously delineated meanings about particular locations or the rigidity of linear time … in this pursuit, Hargrave  makes clear one of the quintessential realities of human experience: the vivid, real, lived circumstances of being present in a place cannot be preserved … Change is inherent in nature, and the swirling nature of our perceptions moves right alongside, engulfed and apart. »
 

In her interview in the book with curator Kendra Paitz about her longstanding interest in memory and color, Hargrave says of her work, « I am thinking about parallels between relics of nature, relics of memory, and relics of photography. The book is primarily made up of photographs I’m making today, but it also contains vernacular photography from different decades … Thus, the book is a conflation of times, mediums, ideas, and colors. »
Alice Hargrave’s resulting curvilinear and complex narrative is fractured, frayed, and stained in color, as are memory and photographic substrates themselves.

ABOUT THE ARTIST
Alice Q. Hargrave is a photographic artist and educator, based in Chicago. She has had several one-person and group exhibitions, including a solo show at the Hyde Park Art Center in 2016, two one-person shows at The Chicago Cultural Center and she was included in three different thematic exhibitions at The Museum of Contemporary Photography. Hargrave exhibits and is collected nationally and internationally; her work is included in the permanent collections of The Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Ruttenberg Collection, Nuveen Corporation, Outer Circle Corporation, and Rush Presbyterian Hospital among others. Her work has been seen at Yale University Art Gallery, The Smart Museum of Art (Chicago, Ill.), The Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Tweed Museum of Art, Art Metz (France), Klein Gallery, and Carol Ehlers Gallery, which represented her. Hargrave has received many awards for her work, and has been published and reviewed in several journals. She is an adjunct professor at Columbia College in Chicago, where she has taught both full time and part time since 1994. For more information, go here.

Allison Grant is a Chicago based curator, writer, and artist. Currently, she serves as assistant curator at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, where she has worked since 2008. Grant holds an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago and a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Media Studies. She teaches in the Photography and Art & Design departments at Columbia College Chicago.

Kendra Paitz is Senior Curator at University Galleries of Illinois State University, where she has been since 2008. She is also the founding Director at Violet Poe Projects, an independent artist-project space. She has organized solo exhibitions featuring Juan Angel Chávez, Laura Letinsky, Melanie Schiff, Jason Lazarus (co-curated), Stanya Kahn, Carrie Schneider, and Kendell Carter.

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER:
Daylight is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing art and photography books. By exploring the documentary mode along with the more conceptual concerns of fine art, Daylight’s uniquely collectible publications work to revitalize the relationship between art, photography, and the world-at-large. For more information, visit daylight books.org.

BOOK DETAILS:
Hardcover
ISBN 13: 9781942084167
21.5 x 29.2 cm
137 pages, 61 color images

CAPTIONS (from top to bottom, left to right)
Coupled Palms (1982 / 2015); Prairie Swallow, Signage (dive), 2015; Tropical Storm, 2014; Biosphere #1, 2015; Gust of Sand, 2015; Esperanza, 2015; Pride (1982 / 2015)

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