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Accidental Mysteries: Extraordinary Vernacular Photographs from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster

January 13, 2006 - April 29, 2006

(above: Surreal Biker Moment, Anonymous photographer from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster)

 

Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art will present the exhibition, "Accidental Mysteries: Extraordinary Vernacular Photographs from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster," from January 13, 2006 through April 29, 2006. An opening reception is scheduled for Friday, January 13 from 5 pm to 8 pm at Intuit. Join John and Teenuh Foster on the morning of Saturday January 14 at 10 am for coffee and conversation. (left: Chicken, Anonymous photographer from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster)

The photos in this show consist of 65 enigmatic vintage snapshots from the John and Teenuh Foster collection of vernacular photography. Taken by anonymous amateurs, these snapshots have been discovered by the Fosters, who collect them from a variety of places such as antique shops, thrift stores, estate sales, and online auctions. Consisting of subject matter that ranges from pets to posed family portraits, many of the snapshots include accidental double exposures and other darkroom mistakes, which create unintentionally idiosyncratic compositions. The curious history behind the origins of these found images prompts speculation from the viewer, who is left to ponder the mysterious circumstances in which these photographs came to be.

Focusing on found snapshots celebrates the non-artist as creator. John Foster notes that the images have a "democratic way of revealing the world." Examined outside family albums, wallets, or keepsake frames, these images can and often do take on new meanings that differ dramatically from those they were originally meant to convey.

 

Accidental Mysteries: Extraordinary Vernacular Photographs

Over the years, long-time folk art collectors John and Teenuh Foster have assembled an exceptional group of snapshot photographs from forays to antique shops, flea markets and on-line auctions. The found images are orphans of another life, holding secrets within them regarding their real narratives. Rediscovered, these photographs have been given new life and lie open to reinterpretation. They invite the viewer to mine their imaginations to create new meanings or remember in new ways.

Found photographs provoke the imagination and can carry multiple connotations. They have the unique capacity to be transformed by what the viewer brings to them. Open vessels that have a past, a present, and an infinitely variable future, these mysterious images provide both realities and fictions.

Photographs capture moments in time and play them back for us through our own experiences, memories and transactions. They are, as the French theorist Roland Barthes describes them, a superimposition "of reality and of the past." When looking at photographs of the long-dead or places that we have never visited, we are caught in a moment that is not quite now and not quite then. We see through the eyes of the photographer a past that is brought into the present.

In this exhibition, over 65 photographs from the Foster collection have been selected from hundreds, the bulk of which are shown in their original small snapshot format. From this collection, John Foster has selected several images to present as large format inkjet prints, further transforming these mysterious moments into powerful narrative vessels.

Found photographs have been recognized in recent years as legitimate and independent works of art in a number of published monographs and important museum exhibitions, although their original purpose was often only a humble record of family events. Dynamic and mysterious, these carefully chosen photographs are beautiful, gem-like moments of lost time that invite interactive participation from the viewer.

-- Olivia Lahs-Gonzales, Director, The Sheldon Art Galleries, Saint Louis, Missouri

(above: Girl in Prom Dress, Anonymous photographer from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster)

 

 

(above: Twins, Anonymous photographer from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster)

 

 

(above: Double Exposure, Anonymous photographer from the Collection of John and Teenuh Foster)

 


Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is located at 756 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago IL. Please see the Center's website for hours and admission fees.


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