Facing East: 48 hours in the life of East Austin (2009) Opening Reception
Who: DiverseArts' New East Arts Gallery
What: "Facing East," an art exhibit of documentary photography capturing life in Central East Austin
When: Opening reception: Friday July 17th, 7-10pm
Where: New East Gallery @ Saltillo Lofts
1601 E. 5th St., Suite
DiverseArts is pleased to announce the 2009 winners of Facing East: 48 Hours in the life of East Austin: Kaleema H. Al-Nur, Ann Armstrong, Martha Grenon, Adolfo Isassi, and Neesha Thakkar. The jury-selected images reflect the identity of East Austin as documented on Juneteenth weekend, June 19th-21st. The Best in Show photographer will be announced at the exhibit opening.
The artist recognizes that our perception of a picture comes through “our filter of experiences, sensitivities, focus and identities,” “that’s how you can have 3 people digging the same photograph for completely different reasons. It’s meaning varies.”
“My filter is largely through being the Stranger at so many points in my life, a willingness to see beauty, a sensitivity to Place and an abiding Love for my People.” But, “a really good photograph is miraculous because all has to agree to assemble - every element and angle. It’s a manifestation of the collective-cooperative nature of the Divine.”"East Austin could be the West End in Atlanta, Detroit, or Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica. A lot of friends and family saw the pictures and felt nostalgia for their home places. They resonated. That’s our Oneness.
A photo is an exchange – the energy flows both ways. I wish to give thanks to folks in Central East Austin for shining their Lights and for their generosity of Spirit. Together, we shine."
"I believe in walking. I think it helps integrate people and place. Though I am an architect by trade, my extracurricular artistic pursuits revolve around sidewalks and urban interventions. Sometimes this involves passive observation, and at other times, participation.
I bring my hand me down camera along on my daily dog walks through the neighborhood. This photo essay is inspired by those walks. And though the options for paths and discoveries are endless, these photos are the documentation of one in particular."
"One never knows what to expect when taking documentary photographs. On June 20, I started out with the idea of “Night Life on the East Side,” and shot photos of neon. I would have liked to photograph the people inside these establishments, but, for the most part, they were wary of having their pictures taken. (A man at the fortune teller’s came out and wrote down my license plate!) When I got home I decided to return and shoot some of the same places the following morning."
Included with these diptychs are some photos of people and their activities during this 12-hour period: A late night haircut at Mario’s; the making of a feature film, “Between Kings and Queens;” cyclists cycling east on Cesar Chavez and one man sleeping away whatever happened the night before, on the porch of a church.
"As I roam the streets of East Austin on an early humid morning, I am reminded, with a touch of sadness, of just how special this area really is. East Austin is the anti-suburbia incarnate; the area is alive with color, expression, and diversity. . .
If I have to pick one visual aspect that makes central East Austin special, it is the rich, beautiful, and abundant graphic expression on its walls, visual statements of identity. From street graffiti and stenciling, to echoes of Mexican muralism, this area is alive with the expression of a culture in flux. "
"East Austin’s concomitant steadfastness to tradition and resilience in a new environment is my springboard for this project. My images for Facing East 2009 are decontextualized areas that obscure as much as they reveal. From photographs of a sunlit hammock behind an iron fence to imposing electrical poles that funnel energy to central Austin, these impressions are details I use to evoke the same curiosity and wonder from a viewer that I feel when I capture an image. Thus, the viewers are permitted to form their own understanding of these places."
Cultures transformed through diaspora and acculturation is a predominant theme in my work. As a second-generation immigrant living in Texas, I constructed my identity aware of the complexity of unrestrained assimilation. I make photographs and site-specific installations that document a modern mobility and the intermediary spaces that accompany this journey.
My photographs mingle a documentary truth with a penchant for minimal compositions. I have a fascination with threshold spaces: the area where one reality ceases and another begins. East Austin is a fitting subject for explorations in liminality, its roots in a minority culture, but consistently adjusting and reforming to Austin’s changing ethos.
East Austin’s concomitant steadfastness to tradition and resilience in a new environment is my springboard for this project. My images for Facing East 2009 are decontextualized areas that obscure as much as they reveal. From photographs of a sunlit hammock behind an iron fence to imposing electrical poles that funnel energy to central Austin, these impressions are mystical and unexplained spaces. By leaving out identifying details I aim to evoke the same curiosity and wonder from a viewer that I feel when I capture an image. Thus, the viewers are permitted to form their own understanding of these places.
This universalizing of the specific is essential, since this photographic information is not limited to my personal being, but part of a greater collective of shared experiences that defines the neighborhood.
Facing East is part of founder Harold McMillan’s larger mission for the Austin Blues Family Tree Project. The Blues Family Tree Project is the living record of Austin musicians and artists’ oral histories and performances created to address the scarcity of collected archival materials that document the personal lives, neighborhoods, and institutions found east of IH-35.
Join us at the exhibit opening of Facing East for a chance to celebrate East Austin and local photographers.