(post by Anna Helgeson) A spectacle of collection, manipulation, and destruction of non-photographic material will be on view during photo+craft in an exhibition curated by Anna Helgeson entitled Authentic Constructions. One of the five participating artists, Constance Thalken,will share her project The Soul Is A Light Housekeeper , a strangely mesmerizing and intimate look into the detritus of every day life.
Internationally exhibiting artist, Thalken has accolades and awards too numerous to list (check out her website). She earned her MFA from Yale University and since 1990 has been teaching at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Her most recent obsession is taxidermy. In an ongoing photographic exploration entitled Eyes Open Slowly she sensitively invites us into the haunting world of animal preservation.
She describes the work this way:
Eyes Open Slowly employs the prism of taxidermy to investigate the tangled and often paradoxical relationship between human and animal. The work speaks to the common nature of human life and animal life and how that commonality is manifested in our shared destiny of death.
Animals are naturally magnetic and taxidermy perpetuates the illusion of animal presence, providing an intimate experience that is impossible in real life. The animal/object dichotomy of taxidermy can be unsettling and disorienting. We are in awe of what appears to be animal, yet the actual animal is gone. Death is inherent to taxidermy and so a sense of loss or grief is part of each encounter.
Since 2013 I have been photographing in a taxidermy shop owned by an 85-year old expert taxidermist who has kept his shop in continuous operation for over 67 years. The shop itself is breathtaking. A massive amalgam of cavernous rooms, each overflows with residue from decades of working with animal skins. The diverse clientele of the shop reflects our entanglements. Prominent natural history museums, the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service, wealthy game hunters, international franchise steakhouses, and local trophy seekers all procure mounting services from the shop.
I have entered this world to investigate the idea of animal essence and the emotional and psychological complexities that arise from reanimations of that essence. Whether photographing animals in the process of becoming or deploying abstraction to confound the reading of surface, the work uncovers our longing to connect to the natural world while questioning our urge to possess and immortalize it.
Authentic Constructions will be on view from March 31 – April 3 in a pop up gallery located above Henco Reprographics , 54 1/2 Broadway Street, downtown Asheville.