Monday, April 2, 2012

Brie Castell

The deadline for Between Dusk and Dawn has closed. Thank you to all who submitted such imaginative work. And thank you to our wonderful juror, Brie Castell for taking time out of her busy schedule to sift through all of these fantastic images.

Brie is not only the owner of The Castell Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, but also an accomplished photographer and professor. After earning an MFA in photography from East Carolina University, Brie went on to teach at both ECU and Pitt Community College. She is now an adjunct professor of photography at Brevard College. In addition to her daily responsibilities to her gallery and to her students, Brie still manages to find time to produce work of her own. Much of her work has been extensively exhibited across the country in both group and solo exhibitions. We asked Brie some questions about her work and her gallery in order to present a more complete profile of her life and art. 

Emotions play a major role in your work, yet your images are so metaphoric. How do you work through or with an emotion to create a visual representation? Give an example of your process, say, in your series Ritual and Relic. What emotions were channeled into these landscapes?

I can't really explain how I use emotion in my working process, it just is the way I work. I can say I almost always work alone when shooting and almost always use myself in the image. That use of me as model or subject automatically allows me to tap into how I feel and then use that to power and control the process. There's so much post-visualization involved in my process as well, which allows me to further manipulate an image. Ritual & Relic is a body of work created after a long break of art making due to numerous changes in my career. I purposefully decided to veer far off course from my usual photographic content of psychological and personal portraits, and create works of the natural environment around my home – 180 acres of private land. It was a very solitary and quiet experience, and odd for me since I did not have a literal presence within the image as I usually do. This was a personal exercise and examination of how art making is a ritualistic process for myself and how ultimately, and sometimes sentimentally, each piece created inevitably becomes relic – a simple object with or without importance, but fundamentally describing something about a time or a person. Utilizing the wet plate collodion process allowed me to explore even more into the idea of ritual, with the result being an ambrotype – a relic of photographic history.

                                                                    Ritual and Relic

                                                                    Ritual and Relic

Your series REFLECTion takes on a dark tone, both visually and in representation. Tell us a little about this series. What is it about darkness/the dark tones of an image that appeals to you as a photographer?

REFLECTion is an exploration of the complex relationship between self-portrait, time, and memory. Each of these images is a self-portrait with the intent to redefine and separate myself from the “family album”. The album snapshots we collect of ourselves throughout our lifetimes are typically joyous, smiling moments taken during holidays, birthday parties, and celebrations. Often these smiles hide the reality that lies beneath, disguising a sad feeling, an angry memory, or a hidden passion. Too many times we forget that the snapshot is only a split-second – there was a before and an after that is not recorded. Each of my images is a “new” snapshot, one that, while still only a fraction of a second, can encompass and illustrate a broader range of time and emotion. The self-portraits act as mirrors, reflections, and distorted versions of who I am, have been, and will become. They are also an action, a ritual, a reflection on my past to help me better understand and experience who I am as an individual.
This body of work is physically and visually very dark and much of that "look" is a way for me to further communicate the dark or hidden nature of the memory each conveys. These are not exactly happy images. I also feel that there is something unseen, unsaid in that darkness that can allow the viewer to generate his or her own thoughts and ideas.



As owner of The Castell Gallery you must look at the work of emerging and mid-career artists constantly. How do you think that impacts your approach as a juror?

I think I have a good eye and my years of teaching and curating certainly help when jurying a show. I definitely tend to approach these entries the same as I would in the gallery – I look at all works from one entrant, not the images individually, to get an overall impression of his or her consistency, and I also make my selections based on how they will all look together on the walls of a gallery.

                                                                    Ritual and Relic

What is it that you look for when contacted by artists looking for representation?

First, we hope that our submissions guidelines have been followed and that we have been contacted in an appropriate manner. We have a certain aesthetic, so for exhibitions we look for works that will fit within this style as well as being fully realized, editioned appropriately, and works that are thoughtful and which somehow stand out from the rest. We are particularly interested in unique (one of a kind) works, handmade processes, and mixed media with photo-based imagery. We do not discriminate on the basis of education or experience, and show mainly emerging and mid-career artists. My gallery director, Heidi Gruner, and I both have a very similar style and almost always enjoy the same types of work, which certainly makes it easy when deciding on a particular artist! We have slowly started representing artists, so in addition to what we look for in shows, we also seek out artists whose works are relevant in contemporary photography, will continue to grow and mature, and become highly collectible.

What is your pet peeve when an artist contacts you looking for representation?

When an artist comes into the gallery with his/her portfolio in hand without an appointment; an envelope with just a CD and no label on it; but mostly submitting works that are nowhere near what we as a gallery would want to show. Artists should do their homework on which gallery is appropriate for their work in terms of style. Sending us your portfolio when it is the opposite of what we show is insulting because it's clear this artist never took the time to learn about who we are.

The Castell Gallery is the only fine art photography gallery in Asheville with a specific concentration in photography. How has the gallery impacted and influenced the community in the years since it opened? 

Asheville has a rich and vibrant arts culture with numerous galleries and artists, but photography has never had a major presence. When most Asheville galleries (rarely) exhibit photography it is often limited to nature and landscape. This, I believe, has had a negative impact on how the community views photography as an art form. At Castell Photography we strive to show the very finest and challenging works from both emerging and mid-career artists, and works which are an investment and collectible. We've had a huge impact on our community as well as the tourists who visit and work diligently to enlighten these folks on the infinite possibilities of what contemporary photography is and can be. Visitors are often surprised when they find we rarely exhibit local artists, but it is our aim to demonstrate to our community the incredible variety of contemporary photography on a national scale. We offer talks and demonstrations, which are open to the public, and we sometimes offer workshops in specialized processes. We also encourage all of our exhibiting artists to visit Asheville.

The deadline for Between Dusk and Dawn closed last Friday. The results are still pending so be sure to check back soon to see the winners and their submissions. 

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