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Newport, Covington Photographers Featured in Next Show on Pike Street

On the Road and Into the Woods begins the 2015 exhibit season at Covington Arts, featuring photography by Northern Kentuckians Kimberly Meadows (Newport) and Lisa Sullivan (Covington). There will be an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. Jan 8, with the show continuing through Feb. 4.
 
On Monday, exhibit curator Maureen Bloomfield, an ex officio CovArts board member and editor-in-chief of The Artist’s Magazine stood with Covington Arts director Cate Becker, looking at 16 pieces by Sullivan and bare white gallery walls. (Meadows’ photos weren’t arriving till Tuesday.)
 
Their day’s work: deciding how to hang the show.
 
While Sullivan’s half of the exhibit title – On the Road – suggests a theme, her work has many moods and no easy narrative line.  
 
Several color-saturated images celebrate musicians and touring – the Buffalo Wabs and the Price Hill Hustle are shot from the back walking along a train track. (The band plans to play a set in honor of their favorite photographer at the gallery on a date TBA during the exhibit run.) 
 
Another version of road – loving portraits of cars ready for the junkyard.
 
 
But there are many detours. An artful still life of the ruffling pages of a book. Nature as seen from the road -- willows as their season ends, a December fog in a forest.
 
Some photos are framed, others not. There are digital photos, photos printed on canvas, on aluminum, on slate as Sullivan experiments.  
 
Bloomfield admires a portrait of a guitarist, posed in front of a vintage car that screams rock ‘n’ roll. An empty liquor bottle in the foreground looks like roadside litter. She wants to make sure it has room. “It’s subtle – people really have to look at it.”
 
Bloomfield sees matches – heavy and ominous storm clouds loom on the horizon of a two-lane road is teamed with a photo of a lane leading to a whimsically-painted covered bridge. One photo suggests journey, the other destination.
 
And Bloomfield sees common themes in the very different approaches of the photographers, Sullivan’s color documentation and Meadows’ black-and-white prints that use nature as an abstract and bleak backdrop for a nude whose poses blend with her surroundings.
 
“Both artists are exploring themes of escape: fleeing one city for another, as a musician does; finding a space/interval—Eden/Arden/Woods on or off the road; seeking refuge and freedom in a nature that may be grim and/or primordial rather than cultivated.”
 
In both cases, Bloomfield muses, nature represents “what is counter to the regimentation and orderliness implied by a "normal" job with its dress code and time clock.”
 
“I love that Sullivan’s work seems discovered rather than plotted and Meadows’s work is dramatically staged. Both artists have a strong sense of composition; they are attuned to the vagaries of light and dark and to infinite gradations in both monochrome (Meadows) and color (Sullivan).
 
“Sullivan’s work implies a story: someone is going from one place to another -- finding and abandoning objects along the way. Meadows’s work is static: the figures align themselves literally with the landscape that is stratified and almost subterranean in its darkness. The implied character in Sullivan’s work is seeking; he/she is on the road; there is an optimism, a possible adventure unfolding.
 
“In Meadows’s work, the figures have found what they are looking for: safe harbor. A lovely irony is that the landscape encloses them; there is no or very little sky, so they seem to be in a womb, on an altar, or in a grave.”
 
On the Road and Into the Woods, Jan. 8-Feb. 4. Covington Arts, 2 W. Pike St., Covington. Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. 859-292-2322. Opening reception: 6-9 p.m. Jan. 8.  (In case of bad weather, the opening reception will be postponed to Jan. 16.)
 
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts