Sarah Pollman’s abiding love of the history and medium of photography is ever evident in “Notations,” Pollman’s Masters Thesis show, exhibited in conjunction with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Pollman’s thesis consists of four thematically linked projects:
In “Love Notes,” Pollman pairs her own photographs with letters written to the photographers who inspired them. Each of the photographers she chooses is linked to one another and to her own work visually, thematically, and historically, creating a photographic chain. In “After Sherrie Levine, After Walker Evans, 1981,” (Pictured at Top) Pollman writes:
“Sherrie, Whenever I think about my photographs paying homage to other artists, I think of you. You make pictures of pictures to emulate and elevate and have them for yourself. Your photos are love notes, pieces you couldn’t leave behind. Mine are, too.”
The notes feel simultaneously intellectual and highly personal, statements of connection and respect. Pollman pays homage to her teachers and places herself firmly within the photographic canon.
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“Our Family Pictures” takes the form of a slide show, projecting descriptions of family snapshots. Pollman no longer has access to the photos described, so the images exist only in her memory. Her textual recreation of the photos adds a narrative of how she felt both when the photo was taken and when later viewing the print, a record inaccessible in the original images.
In “Mother/Father,” Pollman photographs gravestones that are marked “Mother” and “Father,” but lack specific names. The gravestones must have been highly personal for the the children who buried their parents, but have now become anonymous, separated from their history. Pollman selects them as parental archetypes, perhaps even our own mothers and fathers.
“Photographs Purchased on Ebay” is a three-part project composed of the text of the ad pulled from Ebay, to scale paintings of the photographs, and a video. Just like the photos from “Our Family Pictures,” these photos too are dislocated from their original owners – owners who must have held them as precious objects once, but somewhere along the way lost possession of them. Pollman translates the snapshots into paint, recreating both the fronts and backs of the pieces of paper.
The small screen of the video is waist-height and parallel to the floor, forcing the viewer to lean in close, and creating an intimate space for observation. Here, Pollman records herself dipping the original photographs into bleach and watching them melt away into swirls of ink. Even their erasure feels like an act of love, respectful and gentle.
Pollman is clear-spoken in both her photographs and her prose, creating work that is technically precise and emotionally charged. “Notations” is a discourse on photography, but in the end, it is truly about love.
“Notations” is on view at the Howard Art Project until January 31st, open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 12 – 6, and by appointment.
You can also currently see work by Sarah Pollman on view at Chester F. Sidell Gallery in Lawrence, MA (up till February 14th), at Emerson College’s Huret & Spector Gallery (up till February 28th), and online at www.sarahpollman.com .