“Glass Paper Sidewalk” is the terse title of the show opening September 8 at Saugerties’ Doghouse Gallery of work by Gay Leonhardt and Loel Barr: collaborative as well as individual photographs and drawings. “Sidewalk” refers to the collaborative project, which grew out of Leonhardt’s guerrilla art projects, but was conceived by Barr: a large piece of paper that was laid down on the sidewalk along Tinker Street for 45 minutes, labeled “Art by the Foot” and bearing instructions to “Walk over Me.” Water-soluble powdered pigment was applied on the paper to enhance the random effects, and the resulting drawing was so dense with footprints that various patterns could be extracted from it. The prints “look like cave paintings,” noted Barr.
The two artists photographed the paper, rolled it up and photographed it again, and then played with the photographic images on their computers. Echoing the famous da Vinci exercise in which he made drawings inspired by the cracks in a wall, each artist brought a different sensibility – conceptual in Leonhardt’s case and narrative in Barr’s case – in her interpretation of the images. In Barr’s case, the swirls of black pigment suggested in one case a desert, leading her to superimpose an image of a camel herder and some sheep, based on slides taken by her brother in the Middle East; another fragment evoked a road, which Barr made literal by superimposing an image showing a road and sky.
“Glass” refers to Leonhardt’s “Glass at the Beach” series of digital prints. The large prints depict four-by-six-inch glass slides painted with sand and acrylic paint, sometimes by the artist on-site and sometimes in her studio, which were then placed on the beach and photographed, Leonhardt also adding brushstrokes to the glass in Photoshop in some instances. “I did every combination. When I got kind of sick of the subject, I just threw them in the air” – which added to another series, in which the slides are photographed in midair. “It took practice,” Leonhardt said. “I threw 20 or 30, and a few broke.”
Leonhardt discovered all sorts of wondrous effects in playing with the glass plates, such as reflections of the sea and sky at certain angles, and she sometimes took her cues from the weather, using black-and-white paint on a foggy day, for example. The extreme horizontality of the beach was a key component of her compositions, leading her to photograph the glass plates inserted vertically into the sand at an angle that suggested that they were much larger and monumental, causing disjunctions in scale. While most of the photos were taken on Long Island, they also include beaches in Destin, Florida and Massachusetts, which contributes another subtle variable in sand color and lighting.
“Paper” could refer to the sidewalk project, but in completing the triptych of bodies of work, it more directly refers to Barr’s graphite drawings of thrift-store clothing. Barr, who holds an MFA in Printmaking and Drawing, has spent recent years experimenting with assemblage and collage, but her first love is drawing, and after studying with Realist painter Chris Galleto, she returned to her roots. After taking photographs in thrift stores, a particular image of a rack of clothing caught her eye, which was the catalyst for this series. Besides the meticulous graphite drawings of the used clothing – the poignant castoffs of past lives, among the most intimate possessions of people who will forever remain unknown – her series includes photographic images altered in Photoshop. One intriguing factor about the subject to her was “the way very disparate items from disparate people are all grouped together, mingling with each other”: a metaphor for the crowd.
“Glass Paper Sidewalk” opens September 8 at the Doghouse Gallery, located at 429 Phillips Road in Saugerties, and will run until September 30. The gallery is open daily from 4 to 7 p.m. Contact Tom Wright at (845) 246-0402 for more information.