SARANAC LAKE - A new photo exhibit, Heads and Tales, opening at the Adirondack Artists' Gallery on Oct. 4, represents a revived exploration for Burdette Parks. Most of his photography since landing in the Adirondacks twenty-three years ago has been devoted to capturing the splendors of the landscapes and natural wonders of this beguiling wilderness place. But in this exhibit, he returns to a landscape he explored for many years while working in the theater - the equally fascinating landscape of the human face.
Faces and hands are our two most recognizable and distinctive features. They are the physical parts of us that are most uniquely "us". As our individual identifiers, they tend to become the parts of us we pay the most attention to. In fact, the human brain is hard wired for face recognition. People who lack the ability to identify faces have an actual defect in their brains know as Prosopagnosia or "face blindness". There is a new test devoted to facial recognition being used as a possible early indicator for the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. Our hands also bear unique features. The most notable, of course, are fingerprints and the line structure on our palms. But the shapes, textures and gestures of hands are just as individual as our faces and as such become intriguing subjects for portraiture in their own right.
Parks calls Heads and Tales a portrait project. In creating the show, he has done portrait sittings with a variety of people using a consistent "studio" lighting setup and is presenting the results as a collection of framed facial landscapes. During each sitting, he had the sitter tell a story of their choosing. But he encouraged them to tell the story with their hands and photographed the hands during the telling. Photos of those storytelling hands will be an integral part of the exhibit along with the text of the stories told.
(Photo by Burdette Parks)
Faces are rich in detail and variety. Studying other people's faces intently can provoke embarrassment or even be interpreted as rude, anti-social behavior. Just like pictures of objects or landscapes, portraits can be assessed quickly and superficially and passed over. But having a representation of the person in front of us instead of the real person, we are afforded the opportunity to really study the face without the sense of intrusion. We can study in detail the textures of the face and the play of light across its planes and valleys. An interesting aspect of the exhibit is that the heads and hands will be displayed on separate walls. A challenge for viewers will be to match hands and faces.
The exhibit opens at the gallery of the Adirondack Artists' Guild at 52 Main Street in Saranac Lake. There will be an opening reception from five to seven on Friday, October 4 open to everyone. The show will be up for the month of October along with works by the other members of the Adirondack Artists' Guild.