Jan. 19-25, 2001
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William Wylie
Patrick Gantz
William Wylie

Two new faculty members
Art department sharpens focus on photography

By Jane Ford

Before Holly Wright retired from the U.Va. art faculty last May, she'd spent 16 years building a strong photography program. Her classes were among the most popular and oversubscribed in the McIntire Department of Art.

The popularity of Wright's classes helped identify an even broader interest among art students that extended to forms other than traditional media. Part of Wright's legacy will be that she was replaced with not one, but two new faculty members.

Kevin Everson, a photographer and installation- and performance-artist, joins the faculty from the University of Tennessee, where he taught since 1996. He is teaching one course in cinematography and another in installation and performance art.

William Wylie comes to U.Va. from Colorado State University where he taught photography, history of photography, critical theory and book art since 1994.

Wylie is a master photographer as well as skilled draftsman, and also an installation artist. "He combines these skills to allow his work to be more than pictures, using installation to expand the experience of photographs," said William Bennett, chair of the studio art program.

Patrick Gantz
Kevin Everson

"Once you make a photograph, it becomes a very different thing than you are photographing," said Wylie. "I want the reverberation of the photograph, as an image of a subject that matters, to expand out to all aspects of our feelings and experience."

In his work, Wylie focuses on themes and issues of landscape and place. His latest book, Riverwalk: Explorations Along the Cache la Poudre River, chronicles the last undammed river in Colorado which runs from the Continental Divide to the Missouri River. Wylie was no stranger to the river, having fly-fished along its banks for many years. He spent more than four years photographing the changing light along the 150-mile river. Near the end of his photographic journey, Wylie spent 12 days hiking the entire 150 miles searching out and photographing areas that are often missed by the casual observer.

With his camera on a tripod and a hood over his head, the black and white photographs he takes with his large-format field camera are in the tradition of late 19th-century expeditionary photographers and painters like Worthington Whittredge, Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson. Visible in the photos are the imprints of human intervention -- a power line, a house in the distance, tractor tracks in a field across the river, but people are never seen.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="1"><b><i>Riverwalk: Exploring Along the Cache la Poudre River</i></b></font>
Look for the presence of human industry in one of the wilderness photos (above) of faculty member William Wylie, from his latest book, Riverwalk: Exploring Along the Cache la Poudre River.

People in everyday life inform Kevin Everson's photo-based work. Labor and daily chores in African-American social settings are central to the themes of Everson's short movies. He takes complex relationships and simplifies them by "collaging things together." As in many of his projects, such as his films "Thermostat," "Second Shift" and "Merger," he puts together disparate things in unusual combinations.

In his latest film, "Avenues," Everson portrays a teenage African­American cab driver who has to juggle a variety of tasks to keep his job. Along with driving, he also serves as mechanic. "Today everything is based on things not lasting," Everson said. "Being a mechanic, building something, the cab driver is like a sculptor in a way."

Incorporated into the images is visual text of language used in the corporate culture -- or as Everson calls it, "corporate newsspeak." Juxtaposing these two worlds, Everson subtly reveals the similarities between the cab driver and the corporate executive. "Even small industry becomes corporate," he said.

"Avenues" was exhibited in the experimental category at the prestigious Shorts International Film Festival in New York in mid-November. The festival provides a forum for artists whose works are given consideration for the Academy Awards.

"Everson's area is our first expansion into time-based media," said Bennett. "His strong background in still photography also helps to enrich the critical discussion of photography, which up to this point has been a one-person area."

Everson is the recipient of numerous awards including a 1999 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in photography, and the Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically Innovative Film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Bennett sees the addition of Wylie and Everson as an important step in broadening the University's photography program. "Both of these artists bring to the art department a developed sense of the artist as having a strong sense of social, political and ecological responsibility."


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