Kiehle sees art through the camera lens in Valise exhibit

Part of the Valise Photo exhibit in Kiehle Art Gallery. Photo credit: Isabella Kraft

Seeing the world through a camera, people have been doing that a lot lately. Through Zoom and Facetime this new normal can become monotonous. However, the Kiehle Art Gallery is breaking through by displaying the power a camera has in the compelling images of Valise. 

From Feb. 18 to March 25, photographer Alec Soth’s exhibit, Valise, was on display in the Kiehle Art Gallery. The exhibit was a mixture of his own photography as well as found photographs. 

The Valise exhibit brings inspiration from Soth’s previous work, From Here to There. Where he connects all the photos together, such a man with a Superman tattoo and the next picture of a Superman cape in a costume shop.  

“I liked the adventure of this, but I didn’t love the pictures there just wasn’t enough information in them for me,” Soth said. “The linking between pictures was just too gimmicky and simplistic and I wanted to make broader leaps.” 

Soth wanted to expand off of his previous work and make linkages from photos through free association, rather than the photos be direct with their message.  

“So much of the power of photography is the viewer, viewing in and connecting the dots and making their own stories,” Soth said.

The theme of wandering and adventures began as a starting point for Soth when he thought of his new project. He began collecting photographs during his travels from shops and people he met along the way. At a stop in Los Angeles, he purchased 60 pounds of photographs for the exhibit. 

“Then it was a question of how do I make meaning out of all these things,” Soth said. “When I was traveling, I would lay them all out on my bed and organize them, put them into different categories and try and figure out ways of making meaning.” 

According to gallery director Peter Happel Christain, what makes Valise so unique is that it is experimental compared to Soth’s other work. The subtle cues towards other photos in the gallery make the work become more cohesive between the found photos and Soth’s.  

“The longer you spend time here you see something in a picture and then you walk over and you see the actual picture and it’s super rare in a show of photographs where you see the actual thing depicted,” Christian said.  

Although the Valise exhibit ended on March 25, there are more exhibits to come to the Kiehle Art Gallery this year. The gallery hosts six exhibits per year from regional artists, as well as a student exhibition at the end of the academic year. 

“We try to put up shows of work by artists who represent a board change of working styles and materials,” Christian said. “[We] want to represent the largest section of culture and society.” 

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, procedures of the art gallery have changed, such as a smaller capacity in the gallery itself and having artist talks over Zoom. One of the biggest challenges, studio visits for artists being considered moved to a virtual format. 

“Studio visits are a way for a gallery director to connect with the artist and consider them for exhibition, that’s shifted to virtual studio visits,” Christian said. “We have had to adapt, but [we are] lucky campus has stayed open and Kiehle has stayed open.” 

There is expected to be one more exhibit this semester, as well as the student exhibition which both are open to the public. Since Kiehle is a tucked back building on campus, Christian believes this makes the building seem more secluded than it is.  

“I would encourage students to come by and see what is happening, there is always something going up in the gallery,” Christian said. “You will always kind of be surprised by what is going on here.” 

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