Hera Explores The Social Landscape
by Suzanne Volmer
Hera Gallery was founded in an endeavor to raise consciousness, particularly through creating exhibition opportunities for women. In forwarding a feminist agenda, and most recently providing exhibition exposure for all genders, it has developed a reputation for exploring issues aimed at sparking social awareness.
On view through July 19, the twin billing of “Self Portraits: Under My Skin” by Amanda Swain Bingham and “Old World” by Viera Levitt are solo photography exhibitions paired side- by-side in the gallery’s ground level, bright-white loft environment in an old factory building in the center of Wakefield, RI.
Swain and Levitt ply separate visual vocabularies in photography, but they both show a rich and varied medium in their work, which is displayed in counterpoint. If considered together, these two exhibits share an aesthetic in fine photography manifesting very different final outcomes. Each riffs on what is called “social landscape,” an approach that is influenced by photographer Lee Friedlander, known for his freestyle sensibility that includes autobiographical perspective.
Both Bingham and Levitt live in close proximity to the gallery, grounding their relationship to it. While installing at Hera, they spoke of their varied life experiences, creative influences and the process of taking pictures.
Levitt’s “Old World” series was photographed on a recent trip to an abandoned sugar beet factory in her native Trnava, Slovakia. These 20” x 30” digital color photographs are unframed with matte surfaces. The artist’s unadorned approach relates to the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher; she also mentions being inspired by
Charles Sheeler and Gerhard Richter. Sugar can be derived from sources other than sugar cane, and where Levitt comes from, it’s sourced from sugar beets. Her images of a derelict sugar processing plant outside Trnava speak of vulnerability and the falseness of failed dreams, human expectation and need. Beyond that is the concept that “hope springs eternal.”