Soft Landing, 2017 - 2018:
Five photographs feature Alario and Keyes' 3 1/2-year old son Marco as the performer, and narrate a familiar vignette in science fiction: a human reacts to the site of a ship landing onto earth from outer space. The scenes are conveyed as child's play: The spaceship is a toy ice cream truck. The Martian invader is a lizard, directed across the surface of an oil painting by a child's tiny hand. Marco performs three different reactions-action, fear, and surprise.
Soft Landing developed from Alario's childhood fascination with comic books during the 1980s and '90s. In his recent adult life, the artist noted an obvious machismo in the books' character-based narratives, including images of buff male superheroes and hyper-sexualized women. His photographs explore removing the traditional sense of masculinity inherent in the superhero narrative, a process that Alario and Keyes enacted literally within the small collages included in the show. As Alario discusses,
It's me revisiting my own childhood obsession, and wanting to protect my own son from this particular visual language, despite loving it too. The comic page of the '90s is a violent space where boys learned that the world would one day be theirs to manipulate with the limits of their perverse desires unchecked.
As other artists such as Richard Hamilton and the Independent Group, for example, explored the theme of science fiction in art during the Cold War period, Alario reprises this theme in today's climate. His images suggest that play itself can provide a way for families with young children to safely process complex emotions associated with outside fear, within the interior space of the home. - Kristen Lorello
Witch Sleepyhead in a Valley, 2016:
Witch Sleepy Head in a Valley is a poem I read in a zine, written by one of my former photo students, Charlie Best. I found it hard to forget: a strange and sweet description of intimacy. My daughter is currently a Witch in Training, so the poem feels apt in relationship to her play with magic.
The form of the book grew out of a collaborative assignment I gave to my students. We swapped images with one another to practice less careful, less prescious, book design. Singular images share the page with the materiality of our home: reflected light behind a tent, moving water, painted cardboard, dust piles on the floor. These collaged spreads echo my studio wall, or the piles on my desk, and aim towards description not always possible in a photograph alone.
The title was borrowed from the poem, which originally appeared in the collection Question Mark: Poems and Prose, On Art, Home, Love, People and the Queering of Everything published by bean and bun press, Buffalo, NY, 2016.
Ecstatic Consumption, 2016:
My art practice is photographic and includes staged depictions of my immediate family. I use multiple exposure and blurring to lend a charged energy to everyday scenes.
I’ve been experimenting with a process borrowed from photography’s past. Prior to the invention of color film, some mid 19th century practitioners, such as Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky (Russian 1863 -1944) developed methods using black and white photography to simulate a full color image. Here, a seemingly natural color photograph is made through the layering and registration of three separate black and white exposures, made with a respective red, green, and blue filter placed over the camera lens. In print form, the three black and white photographs are assigned their corresponding color pigment, and layered in perfect alignment, to create a full color scene.
There are contemporary precedents, makers using this process in an art context: Florian Maier-Aichen’s (German, b. 1973) altered landscape photographs play with history and process, and several views of the Swiss Alps are made using this particular tricolor separation technique. As well, Jessica Eaton (Canadian, b. 1977) makes in- studio analogue color experiments that use layering and registration of multiple filtered exposures. Eaton’s approach talks about photography itself, and gives form to visual phenomena.
In my adaptation of this three color separation process, I’m layering black and white images together, to make a color one, digitally. My camera is static, though my subject matter is not. The time that it takes me to swap the color filter invites discrepancy be- tween exposures. While it interests me that working this way speaks directly to technical and historical photographic processes, I’m most excited by the accidents of the resulting images: the movement in between my three frames, and the mis-registered overlapping. The shifts I see in the final image are not known to me until the separate layers are composited in the computer, and from that point, the work is printed unaltered. The bold color palette, that is a result of this process, echoes my young daughter’s visual world, one that I’m both immersed in and enamored with. Her pink stuff, that we can’t keep out of the house, stick on earrings, and glitter piles, all speak of exuberance, play, and joy.
Outside of the reasons this process was originally developed, mainly a solution to reproduce the world’s color, I’m looking for: unseeable squirming, shifting, and growth, arms flailing in ecstasy, or light slowly moving across our walls.
What We Conjure, 2010 - 2014:
What We Conjure is an autobiographical story, a contemporary folk tale, one that I’m creating along with my partner, our children and our dog.
The work consists of pictures that are made while tracking and documenting, collaboratively inventing and constructing. I follow intuition, daydreams, our daughter’s instruction, or carefully sketched out ideas; and I set them before a large format view camera. Using an 8 x 10 inch film camera connects me directly to the history of photography, and specifically, to a history of the family photograph. It’s a process I’ve come to love regardless how counter intuitive it may seem amid today’s picture making technology. The view camera’s fidelity and rendering of tone is unrivaled, and its presence with a sitter creates a performance, its own unique drama.
I’m exploring my role as father through these pictures, and occasionally appear on the other side of the lens, implicated in the story we weave. There was a point when I found myself wandering, looking for a photograph, with fingers crossed. When I became a parent I felt an urge to tell stories and so set out to make a fable for my daughter. Along the way, reality has leaked into our myth. We are on a search for the spiritually significant, the magic in every day. What will we find that’s worth passing down? What will we conjure?
Night Waking, 2012
The pictures in this series were made with a camera designed to catch game on the trail, using a motion trigger and an infrared digital sensor. By setting up the trail cam in my home, I hoped to catch my toddler in her frequent night wakings. Less interested in surveillance, I was mostly curious about the elusive gestures of a sleep walking creature.
Our Fable, 2008 - 2010
There are two photographs I remember from my child- hood that play directly into this work. The first is a studio portrait of my father’s mother, made immediately before leaving Italy to immigrate to the United States. We would call the photograph the “gypsy picture” while I was growing up, and in doing so the image has taken on a magic, epic role. In the picture, my grandmother stands stoic as an eight year old. Her timeless eyes represent so much to me. In her face is the face of the 100-year-old woman I know now and it’s the face of my daughter. It is one of wisdom and will, and it fills me with awe.
The second picture that I carry in my mind is a portrait of a Sami family, reindeer herders of northern Scandinavia. Magic flows out of this image, too. It comes from my mother’s mom, whose Norwegian bloodline is only fictitiously connected to the Sami. Although I imagine being related to these people, the image hangs in the house like an offering to our ancestry. I see the face of my late uncle in the proud, piped and weathered hero of the portrait. Having a child has got me thinking about the importance of cultural myth and ideas of ancestral wisdom. In my baby I can see our connection to the past, as well as the potential to leave bits of ourselves to posterity.
The Providence Phoenix