Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Harlow Tighe


Browning Buckmark .22LR . kallitype photogram, unique, 14 x 16 inches, 2012

I wrote about Harlow Tighe in April 2012 at ModernHouston.net.

Photography shows dominate the gallery landscape this time of year because of Fotofest. Harlow Tighe is a photographer who stood out because her work uses chemicals painted onto a surface. A technique innovated by May Ray, these rayogram works are simple and straight forward images of objects. But to pardon the pun, her images are very loaded in content.

These pictures of guns have the effect of being there and not there, a kind of x-ray viewing of the objects. Now I have seen a great deal of rayograms or photograms, but usually the images are not as crisp and the content often is just random objects. Tighe’s theme of the gun is focused, creates sharp images, and sometimes the overlapping of guns starts to create a cubist effect of multiple perspectives. When she continues to pile the guns, a nervous energy is released. Tighe’s painterly application of chemicals is informally brushed on; an effect often used in rayograms. I would like to see how one of these works would look like with crisp edges. I wonder if the photo would seem less caviler and celebratory about the gun as subject matter.

Then again, Harlow Tighe’s time in the South and in Europe made for a stark contrast in her experience of gun cultures. A Southern child myself, I remember how the gun was easy to access and always loaded. Strong rules and mystery surrounded the object at home. Tighe might be romanticizing the gun as well as repulsing the view. In a few pieces, Tighe sticks the gun into underwear. An act of violence and metaphoric sexual reference that is completely unsubtle. Another work is a diptych with one side depicting what appears to be a Colt .45 Single Action Revolver. The gun is shooting out sparks and fire crackers. This late 1800’s gun was famously used in the cowboy era and it is still being reproduced in cap gun form for children. The title is “Flower Power,” so the ironic title helped to shape my conflicting feelings about the piece. I have a hate/fascination with guns and Tighe’s works allow me the joy of feeling uncomfortable when viewing her art.

Gallery 214 features Harlow Tighe’s negative photos of Gunplay until April 21st. But, Tighe also has another body of work not featured in this show. Tighe creates rayograms of the female figure, which are stunningly beautiful and mysterious. Maybe Tighe will show her figure works next time she is in town, or you can just fly over to Italy to visit her studio.

To see more images of Tighe's work, visti ModernHouston.net.

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