Melinda McDaniel and John McQueen at the Arts Center of the Capital Region

Memory Books

            The assumed equivalency of photography and memory is a clichè in our culture, but Melinda McDaniel takes this transparency as a starting point for questioning how we relate to  photographic material, how we process its information, and how we layer images, whether experienced first-hand or through media that offer a simulacrum of reality.   Do not expect to see photographic verisimilitude with her work or, for that matter, a photograph of anything you might objectively identify (though there are some sketchy palm trees and sunlit skies).  But photographs she is indeed making in the literal sense, light writing.   McDaniel loops shreds of layered photographic paper into bands that she carefully embroiders around nail brads on wall-mounted boards, some of which project into the viewer’s space.  These photograph papers are “live” in the sense that they are recording the light which hits them and are thereby transforming in color and chemistry much as a sensate medium, say the brain, would record what light is fed to it.   It is significant that her complex and laborious paper loops resemble folds of the cerebrum and so are primitive brains for photo-sensitivity.   They also remind this viewer of Eva Hesse’s sewing and threading of rubber, latex and other non-fine-art forms.  Hesse’s work is also evoked by how McDaniel’s photo-embroidered forms are gradually emerging from reliefs into built extensions from the wall.  It will be interesting to see if the artist continues in this Hesse-like vein towards sculpture in the round.

John McQueen’s wood and twig sculpture feels more received in a Dada-esque way, but his Bird Brain Book, an intricate weave of twigs into pages with legible words, has a delightful fairy-tale quality.   A book whose pages are like embroidery without its backing, uncannily composed of bent and twisted wood, is a welcome complement to McDaniel’s evocation of fabric and photo-collage.