Happenstance with Found Objects

Richard Gardner has a good thing going. He has a trio of galleries exhibiting his photography for a few years running. He enjoys his artistic collaborations with Diana Kovacs, a rubber stamp designer, artist and object maker. He donates a portion of art sales from most exhibitions to a charity of his choosing. All things said, Richard Gardner is pretty happy.

August marks the fourth month of continual exhibitions. Gardner’s solo show, Flying Eggplant #5, is currently on view at fotofoto gallery in Huntington through August 21. The series was previously exhibited at Soho Photo Gallery in New York this past spring. From June 18 to July 9, an exhibition of his BeBe Identity series photography and constructed furniture was exhibited at Ripe Art Gallery in Greenlawn. The furniture pieces personify “BeBe.” They were made with Kovacs.

“I love collaborating,” Gardner said. “It’s fun to bring another mind in and see what happens.”

imageGazing at both series, haunting faces can be found in each. New works in the BeBe Identity series is pointed, aggressive and doesn’t shy away from blunt sexual body parts. The images are color-filled and mostly feature distinctive-faced dolls in ornate clothing and provocative poses. Ugly meets beauty and doesn’t flinch. Or apologize. Sadness, longing and disenchantment seem to prevail.

Flying Eggplant #5 is of another ilk. Shot in black and white, the compositions have a soft and dreamlike quality. Disjointed components share equal billing. Sexuality gives way to sensuality and intrigue.

Psychological musings feel strong. There is nothing here that feels like beauty discarded—a theme of BeBe Identity images and other series that feature mannequins, Gardner said.

Images in Flying Eggplant #5 were made from a still life “arranged” with happenstance in mind. The series is an experiment with the random. Two common composition threads are “a human icon” and the number “5,” Gardner said. Their still life companions are found objects included without forethought.

Shunning purposeful planning and keeping arranging away are important parts of the photography process, Gardner explained. Afterwards, frames are snapped in quick succession using the same lighting, the same camera, the same lens and the same aperture. Any impulse to orchestrate is squashed in favor of the random in a Zen-like philosophy.

imageThe process was repeated week after week until a series of compelling images emerged. The number “5” represents a voyager, Gardner said. The “human icon” marks the adventure as a human kind, he explained. The eggplant reference brings in an element of the absurd, he said.

An element of fantasy is featured in all his photography series, Gardner said. This stems from a career spent in beauty industries. It also arises from an attraction to fashion photography and its presentation of idealized beauty, he said.

Fashion photography is the real surrealism of this age,” Gardner said. “Fashion is about something else that’s being shown…Fashion photography is fantasy realized.”

image“Flying Eggplant #5: Photography by Richard Gardner includes two new furniture constructions by Gardner and Kovacs. It remains on view at fotofoto gallery (Huntington) through August 21. Exhibition profits benefit Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth (LIGALY). Gardner is a past president of the non-profit photography gallery. A group show of gallery member artists is also on view. Richard Gardner’s work can also be viewed at richardgardnerphotography.com.

pat rogers

Pat Rogers is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture on Long Island. When not going to art openings or interviewing actors or musicians, she’s looking for the next interesting story.