Last evening, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet an acclaimed playwright, whilst I saw see snippets of her work, all in the presence of some of the most important photography in the world.
Where was I you ask?
Right here in Louisville, at my friend Paul Paletti’s opening reception of his newest show: The Third Perspective: A Collector’s View
The collection I know from my friend and collector, is stunning and extensive. From the most iconic and popular of artists such as Ansel Adams to Georgia O’Keefe, to the works of Karsh ( see the Winston Churchill Portrait),
Ruth Orkin (* An American Girl in Italy) , and Paul Caponigro ( Running White Deer), the gallery holds many, many treasures of visual art.
New to my repertoire is the Victorian era photographer Alice Austen. Paletti has acquired some of her work, and subsequently married the opening of his show, with the opening of the play featuring Alice and her life story. This is a story of a very unconventional woman who lived in very conventional times, and what a life she had.
“The Third Perspective’ is about the relationship I believe is created when a photographer shows a print he or she has made. Until then, the only perspectives that exist happen in front of, and behind the lens — between artist and subject.
From the Paletti website:
Over several decades, Paul Paletti has amassed an important collection of historic and contemporary photographic artworks of museum quality. As a collector, his intent has been to choose only those pieces in which the artist demonstrates a superlative degree of technical virtuosity offered with a distinctive vision.
The tie in to the playwright comes from other guests and hosts of the reception, namely the entourage from a play ay the Kentucky Center:
ALICE IN BLACK AND WHITE is a new play by Robin Rice Lichtig, which details the true story of Victorian photographer E. Alice Austen.The play will have a world premiere with Looking for Lilith Theatre Company in Louisville, Kentucky, February 28-March 9, 2013.
Ms. Lichtig has penned over 40 plays, and recently won the StageWrite Women’s Theatre Initiative award form the Great Plains Theater conference.
Alice Austen was the talent behind nearly 9000 images, all done in Victorian America, which was unheard of. No one quite knew what to do with this girl, who never put her camera down, and remained uninterested in marriage and conventional life. These irregularities with subject matter, content and life’s love, become the themes of her life.
What began as tragic life when she was born, and her English bred father left she and her mother, took a roller coaster of turns into wealth and poverty and back.
When Alice was born, her father left and Mother moved back to the family homestead on Staten Island. “Clear Comfort “ was an aptly named Dutch farmhouse built in the colonial revival style. Its lush gardens and grounds are positioned on the Verrazano Narrows, providing Alice with continuous landscapes and narratives to capture in her sights.
Graced with fine equipment of the day, from a traveling uncle who was a ship’s captain, she began taking photographs at age 10. Seeing her innate talent, her family supported her ventures of creating still life images of personalities and the life around her.
Some of the most captured were the numerous ships that came by her home in the Verrazano Narrows, on their way to Manhattan. From the Great White Fleet, the German Vaterland, and beauties like the Normanie in 1912, or the USS Texas passing her home, the narrative on the water was always changing.
As for the human perspective, she saw the history of the moment, from the Quarantine Island, or in the orient, to the Chicago World’s Fair her travels made for wonderful accounts of life in the day.
Alice was virtually unknown as a photographer, but never leaving a camera behind, she traveled well and lived large. She founded a garden club and was on the social register , which was normal for the century, but quite novel was the fact she never married and she lived with her partner Gertrude for 50 years.
Enjoying the fruits of family monies until the crash of 1929, the well went dry and forced the sale of Clear Comfort years later. Alice entrusted her works to the Staten Island Historical Society for safe -keeping as she entered a poorhouse colony to live.
In 1950, her works were discovered quite by accident as the Picture Press was looking for American Women of stature to feature in a project. The discovery of her 3500 or so plate images was enough to spur a whirlwind of accolades. The exposure generated funds for Alice and she was to live her final years in a private nursing home. Thankfully, she was able to live through her trails, and see the praise of her work before her death in 1952.
Now her life and work is celebrated, the Lichtig play outlines the images and challenges of her life. The Clear Cottage still stands, and was placed in Historical Trust. Narrowly escaping the Hurricane Sandy of 2012, it incurred just a few limbs on the roof.
I hope you will attend both of these valuable examples of art events in Louisville;
Alice in black and white :
MetX Theatre @ the KY Center for the Arts
Show dates: Feb 28, March 1-2 , 4 7-9 @ 7:30pm
March 2, 2:00pm
$18, $15 for students & seniors
Call the Kentucky Center for reservations: 502.589.7777
The Paul Paletti Gallery is located in the law offices of Sturm, Paletti and Wilson
713 E Market Street
Louisville, KY 40202 (502) 589-9254
9am to 5pm weekdays
Also by appointment