Sandy Milroy had always soloed when it came to making art.
“I had never considered collaborating with someone.” Milroy said.
Then photographer Barbara Tyroler came to Milroy’s studio during the 2012 Orange County Open Studio Tour.
“I work with handmade papers and alter them with my own techniques using painting and stamping,” Milroy said. “Barbara loved the setting and the materials so returned with her camera equipment to do a shoot.”
Once Tyroler had taken the photographs, she used a technique she is well known for of layering images upon images to create a composite. The two artists then sat at Tyroler’s computer and pored over the results.
“There were many overlays and changes of color. I felt like I was looking at how my mind works,” Milroy said.
Tyroler printed several of the photographs for Milroy. “She told me to do my thing,” Milroy said.
“Deciphering” and “Invitation” are the stunning and intriguing outcomes. These two pieces, photographs with elements of collage laid on top of them, are part of the current exhibit at Chapel Hill’s FRANK Gallery, “Inspired by the Lens,” which runs through Oct. 6. A reception is scheduled for 7:30 to 10 p.m. Sept. 28.
“Barbara is like the brightest firefly on a summer night. She flits around and her vision comes down in certain places in the artistic community, and for some reason, she chose me,” Milroy said. “This experience has activated my mind to look in new directions.”
“When I meet somebody, I immediately think of how we can work together,” Tyroler said. “It feeds me.”
In 2009, Tyroler moved to her hometown of Chapel Hill from College Park, Md., leaving a job teaching at the University of Maryland and a photography consortium in Washington D.C. she helped found.
“I came down here and thought, ‘Where is my community?’ There was no nexus of activity,” she said. “So (I said) let’s think about bringing people together.”
Tyroler joined FRANK, got photographers there, including John Rosenthal and Peter Filene, and area photographer Bryce Lankard, to put on a photography exhibit, and got UNC and Duke and local museums involved.
With financial support from the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership and the Orange County Arts Commission, the first photography festival took place last September with seminars all around Chapel Hill.
This year, with Tyroler as the driving force, the Triangle Photography Consortium has formed. It includes the N.C. Museum of Art (which designed the consortium brochure), Flanders Gallery, Cassilhaus, Through This Lens, FRANK Gallery, Nasher Museum of Art, Daylight Project Space, Center for Documentary Studies, and the Ackland Art Museum.
All of the Ackland panelists were invited to be in the FRANK exhibit, which is curated by Luna Lee Ray; Amanda Hughes, the Ackland’s director of external affairs; and Tyroler. Rosenthal is also consulting.
Another exhibit piece that Tyroler was involved with is an installation with artist Jean LeCluyse, custom furniture maker Jim Oleson, jeweler Mirinda Kossoff, and poet Lou Lipsitz.
The idea for the piece began when Tyroler was photographing Kossoff in a pool. For years, Tyroler has exhibited her photographs of human bodies in water.
She and LeCluyse had the idea to overlay two pencil drawings of trees by LeCluyse over one photo from the Kossoff shoot and another pool shoot with Caroline Vaughan, a noted photographer.
“I completed these trees some time ago,” LeCluyse said, “But they have a new life as part of this work with Barbara. The textures of the trees on the figures variously remind me of scales, fish nets, or even tattoos.”
Oleson created a table for the installation with legs that resemble the roots of a large tree.
“The top of the table is the canopy layer of the forest, filled with its own ecosystem: in this case, the ambrosia maple top tells a story about infestation of the wood by a boring beetle that also brings into the wood fungi which create colorful patterns around the beetle holes.” Oleson said. He has also made frames out of the ambrosia maple for the installation, one of which will hold a piece of jewelry that Kossoff has made. “Perhaps Mirinda’s jewelry represents the adornment that helps us cope with aging and infestation.”
Lipsitz’s wrote his poem inspired by LeCluyse’s tree drawings, Tyroler’s photos, and talks he and she had about the nature of the show It is titled, “It was Always There,” and begins “body’s inner tattoo/waiting to inscribe itself.”
“The rest of the poem goes back and forth among different acknowledgments of how we are affected by aging, how we accept and refuse to accept, how we are helpless and yet not helpless, etc.,” said Lipsitz.
Tyroler is looking to next September when once again, photography will take center stage at FRANK and in the Triangle. Anyone who would like to help should contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deborah R. Meyer writes about the arts each month. Contact her at email@example.com.