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APSU's Bryant explores "Presence and Absence" at new photography exhibit

           CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The image is hauntingly beautiful. Two old, weathered lawn chairs sit unused in a backyard. The black-and-white photograph speaks to the temporal nature of life, while also suggesting how photographer Susan Bryant, an Austin Peay State University professor of art, views the world.

           CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The image is hauntingly beautiful. Two old, weathered lawn chairs sit unused in a backyard. The black-and-white photograph speaks to the temporal nature of life, while also suggesting how photographer Susan Bryant, an Austin Peay State University professor of art, views the world.

            “I’m drawn to subjects that are beautiful and that lend themselves to metaphor: the grace of a particular hand gesture, a lock of braided hair, a stack of suitcases,” she said.

            Bryant’s photograph “Two Chairs” is part of her new solo exhibit, “Presence and Absence,” which opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 17 at the Cumberland Gallery in Nashville. The exhibit runs through Oct. 22 and is free and open to the public.

            “In this group of photographs I am looking for ways of directly representing the essential nature of a thing or a person by photographing those meaningful objects and fragments of the human body,” she said.

            Bryant earned her M.F.A. in photography from Indiana State University, and has garnered a national reputation for her work. Her photographs have been widely exhibited across the United States in solo and juried shows, and earlier this year, she received the Ovation Award for Distinguished Artist by the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts.

         The images on display for her new exhibit represent works that tackle Bryant’s growing fascination with the concepts of presence and absence.

            “In filmmaking ‘presence’ is the silence recorded at a location when no dialogue is spoken,” she said. “Presence also refers to proximity, immediacy and nearness (and, in the case of these photographs, images found or made in my backyard). At the same time, I am also interested in capturing a sense of absence: the vacancy, wanting or void that is triggered by the absence of a departed parent or a distant friend. Although 'absence' often suggests loss, that's only one of its aspects: I’m also interested in its contradictory ability to engender anticipation. It is this unexpected intersection of stillness and anticipation that prompted my recent work.”

            The photographs presented in this exhibit were created through a 19th century wet-plate collodion process. Invented in 1851, this process produces a negative on glass, from which positive enlargements can be made. The process can also generate an ambrotype or tintype, both positive one-of-a-kind images.

         “In this body of work I have incorporated contemporary technology by scanning the glass negatives and tintypes and making editioned digital prints from the original plates,” Bryant said. “One of the many reasons I am drawn to this technique is that it requires me to slow down, experiencing both the stillness required by the extended exposure time as well as anticipation for the singular, mysterious images that result.”

            The Cumberland Gallery is located at 4107 Hillsboro Circle in Nashville. Information and images on the exhibit can be found online at www.cumberlandgallery.com.