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Séance: Photographs by Shannon Taggart

August 31–December 17, 2021

For the past twenty years American artist Shannon Taggart (born 1975) has documented Spiritualist practices and communities in the United States, England, and Europe. The resulting body of work, Séance, examines the relationship of Spiritualism to human celebrity, its connections to art, science, and technology, and its intrinsic bond with the medium of photography. This exhibition presents forty-seven haunting images from the series, revealing the emotional, psychological, and physical dimensions of Spiritualism in the 21st century. 

Spiritualism is a religion born in nineteenth-century America whose adherents believe in communication with spirits, often transmitted through the figure of a medium who receives psychic messages from the dead. Not coincidentally, photography was invented at the same historical moment, when the new technology was revered for its ability to faithfully record reality. Photography thus became a preferred medium of scientific documentation capable of rendering invisible phenomena visible, such as in astronomical photography, X-Rays, and microscopy. For Spiritualists, photography was a tool for revealing the existence of spirits, but for non-believers the ghostly forms that materialized in spirit photographs proved nothing more than darkroom trickery. While this double-sided coin of belief and skepticism haunts the histories of both photography and Spiritualism, Taggart’s photographs do not take sides. The images that comprise Séance are characterized by open-mindedness and empathy toward their subjects, many of whom are brought to Spiritualism through grief and a desire to reconnect with lost loved ones.

The photographs on display explore the communities and phenomena associated with Spiritualism, including séance circles, mediumship, and the objects and technological devices used to aid communication with spirits. Among the most arresting images are those that chart the artist’s quest to capture ectoplasm, a supernatural substance that is paradoxically both spiritual and material. Often made in darkened rooms, the photographs are characterized by otherworldly blurs, chance flares and orbs, and entrancing portraits cast in glowing colors. Taking on the role of participant observer, Taggart bears witness with her camera to an unseen world of belief lying just beyond the fringes of everyday reality.


Public Program

Artist’s Talk: Shannon Taggart

Thursday October 14, 2021

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Free and open to the public; registration is required. Attendance will be limited.*

*Registration for the in-person event is now full. Please use this form to be added to the waitlist.

This event will also be livestreamed on the UMBC YouTube channel. Follow this link to join the livestream.


Portrait of artist Shannon Taggart

Shannon Taggart is an artist and author based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. Her photographs have been exhibited and featured internationally, including within the publications TIME, New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Newsweek. Her work has been recognized by Nikon, Magnum Photos and the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. Taggart’s monograph, SÉANCE (Fulgur Press, 2019) was listed as one of TIME magazine’s ‘Best Photobooks of 2019.’


This exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Pensacola Museum of Art.

The exhibition is curated by Beth Saunders, Curator and Head of Special Collections at UMBC, and Anna Wall, Chief Curator of the Pensacola Museum of Art.  

The presentation of this exhibition at UMBC is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

Other venues: Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, FL, September 16–December 4, 2022

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End of the Road

Photographs by Brea Souders Selected poems by Lia Purpura

Souders began making the photographs that comprise End of the Road in March 2020 while living in rural upstate New York. The black-and-white photographs capture candid glimpses of visitors walking to the cul-de-sac at the end of a gravel road viewed through the mesh of a window screen or through curtains of leaves and branches. Her subjects variously walk, rest, hold hands, kiss, and stop to reflect, completing a series of ordinary actions during an extraordinary year. Photographing these strangers—who became unknowing companions—was an almost daily ritual for the artist, generating creative inspiration during a year spent sheltered in place.

The passage of time unfolds in these photographs through seasonal changes and through the contemplative perambulations of Souders’s subjects. Leaves sprout and sunlight casts bold shadows, while in turn, sweaters and mittens replace airy dresses and shorts. Some visitors return to the End of the Road repeatedly, while others make a momentary, but singular, impression. The photographs thus convey a heightened awareness to one’s surroundings and to nature that has become a common experience during the pandemic. In their intimacy, they express the longing for human connection that has defined our shared isolation. Each photograph is a chance encounter that sparks curiosity about the subject, what brought them to the End of the Road, and where they will go from here.

This virtual presentation features images from End of the Road alongside poems by UMBC writer-in-residence Lia Purpura from her book It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (Penguin, 2015). Purpura has noted of this collection of poems, “I am interested in paying attention to the act of looking itself, an act which is almost always full of contradiction, surprise, and mystery.” This statement could equally describe Souders’s photographs, which, through their clandestine framing and sharp observation, elevate quotidian details to totems of coincidence. Likewise, Purpura’s attentive poems abound with incident, engendering expansive ideas from the brief container of their form. Here, photographs and poems, selected in collaboration between artist and author, walk together in tandem, illuminating shared themes and inviting additional connections and reflections.

*Images and text scroll automatically below. Hold your cursor over an image to pause scrolling and to move backwards and forwards in the sequence.


Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Brea Souders and Lia Purpura in Conversation
12:00pm (noon EST)
April 22, 2021

Register here (via Webex)


Black and white photo of man in overalls walking down dirt roadBlack and white photo of person in a white dress holding a glass, partially obscured by tree limbBlack and white photo of person walking behind foliageBlack and white photo of person jogging along dirt roadBlack and white photo of young man holding an animal to his chestPoem: Probability Most coincidences are not miraculous, but way more common than we think – it’s the shiver of noticing being central in a sequence of events that makes so much seem wild and rare – because what if it wasn’t? Astonishment’s nothing without your consent.Black and white photo of a man carrying a ladder in natureBlack and white photo of couple kissing viewed through tree limbsBlack and white photo of woman with face obscured by foliageBlack and white photo os silhouette of a figure holding a dog leashBlack and white photo of woman in shorts walking alone on a gravel road; she grasps her arm with her handPoem: Sunday Signs come. For what I don’t know. To be one in a vastness without meaning, except for making something of it, except for it being a conversationBlack and white photo of two women walking down the road; one wears a shirt that says Black and white photo of a group of youthsBlack and white photo of a man walking, wearing american flag print shortsBlack and white phot of a woman walking in shadows of trees and leavesBlack and white photo of two men walking through foliagePoem: Relativity Shade can chill or relieve and sun comfort or oppress, depending on what you need to shed or retain, which is nothing as simple as sin being dark, and grace, light. Filaments in a web can be both invisible and bright. Each thing’s its own partner, each always both, depending on where you stand, not so central, not so always commanding.Black and white photo of a woman standing amidst foliageBlack and white photo of a woman obscured by leavesBlack and white photo of a couple holding hands and walking in natureBlack and white photo of two figures standing on the road looking into natureBlack and white photo of person bent over to look at something in the roadPoem: Red Leaf It’s precious little warmth the trees are giving, muddled with last greens, addled with vines and that red, a new cry at dusk – oh mind where all things freshly darkened meet.Black and white photo of man walking alone in natureBlack and white photograph of man walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two men walking on snowy roadBlack and white photograph of two girls walking on snowy gravel roadPoem: Future Perfect Where you were before you were born, and where you are when you’re not anymore might be very close. Might be the same place, though neither is as slippery as being here but imagining where you will have been – that point where things land, are finished, over, and gone but not yet.

Brea Souders is a visual artist working primarily with photography. She has exhibited in the US and internationally, including solo exhibitions with Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Abrons Art Center in New York. She has received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, a residency with the Millay Colony and a fellowship with the National Arts Club. Features on her work have been published in the New Yorker, ARTnews, the Jeu de Paume Magazine, and New York Times. Souders’ work is included in many survey publications, including The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson; Feelings: Soft Art, Rizzoli and Photography is Magic, Aperture.

Lia Purpura is the author of nine collections (essays, poems, translations.) A National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, she is a Guggenheim, NEA, and Fulbright Fellow, and has been awarded four Pushcart Prizes, among others. Her work appears in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, The Paris Review, The Georgia Review, Agni, Emergence, and elsewhere. She is the Writer in Residence at UMBC, and has taught at conferences, workshops, prisons, and in communities and MFA programs throughout the country. It Shouldn’t Have Been Beautiful (poems) and All the Fierce Tethers (essays) are her latest collections.


End of the Road/ Hope

To celebrate the online exhibit of End of the Road and the collaboration between artist and poet, the AOK Library Gallery has produced a limited edition booklet, End of the Road/ Hope. Designed by Peggy Re, the publication features a selection of images from Souders’s series along with a poem by Purpura.

Register here to receive a free copy of End of the Road/ Hope. Booklets will be produced in a limited edition of 500 copies and mailed in May 2021.


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Press for Shae McCoy: West Baltimore Ruins

Follow the links below to listen and to read more about West Baltimore Ruins.

https://omny.fm/shows/on-the-record-1/capturing-west-baltimore-ruins

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Shae McCoy: West Baltimore Ruins

As described by the artist, West Baltimore Ruins is “a visual story told by West Baltimore’s daughter.” McCoy created the series between 2018 and 2020 as a means of documenting the architectural landscape of the neighborhood in which she was raised, where an estimated one third of buildings are now abandoned. In addition to her digital camera, McCoy also used a cell phone camera to record her impressions, noting that its mobility and discretion enables photographs to be made easily while on the move. The resulting images take the viewer on a walk through the neighborhoods of West Baltimore as viewed through McCoy’s observant eyes,  capturing the vibrant colors of empty row house facades, the charm of the area’s neglected historical architecture, unruly vegetation reclaiming empty houses, and signs of encroaching gentrification.  

As physical remains of the past, ruins are typically associated with disuse and decay. McCoy’s photographs point toward the causes behind this deterioration in West Baltimore: housing discrimination, urban blight, voucher programs that have relocated residents rather than reinvigorated neighborhoods, and lack of investment in commercial renewal that has benefitted other parts of the city. By turning attention—and her camera—to this landscape, McCoy also enlivens it. Her connections to the area and interviews with residents that helped shape the project invest the photographs with a personal perspective, preserving the memories and histories embedded in the vanishing architectural structures of West Baltimore.

This virtual presentation displays a selection of images and interviews from the project. Photographs from the series have been presented both in black and white and color on the artist’s Instagram and the entire series is published in McCoy’s 2021 book West Baltimore Ruins.  


Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Shae McCoy in Conversation with Dr. Ashley Minner (UMBC)
12:00 noon
March 11, 2021

Register here (via Webex)


West Baltimore Ruins

West Baltimore has aggressively opened my eyes to the irresponsibility and disservice of city officials done to urban black communities. Ironically, these communities once thrived with culture and now they decay as new developments await.

Shae McCoy, West Baltimore Ruins (2021)

This project is an in-your-face first account of what Baltimore residents in these mentioned communities experience everyday. It is an artistic call-out for city officials to see the cause of their neglect.

Shae McCoy, West Baltimore Ruins (2021)

In 2018, then mayor of Baltimore Catherine Pugh targeted corner stores in West Baltimore as sites of drug dealing and crime that did little to benefit the community. However, corner stores and convenience stores often provide basic necessities to residents in areas defined as food deserts and where commercial service establishments are otherwise lacking. McCoy notes that the first sign of gentrification in her neighborhood was the closure of the corner stores.

In the 1950s and 60s, Sandtown was known as “Baltimore’s Harlem” where musicians like Diana Ross and Billie Holiday performed and where jazz legend Cab Calloway was born. After riots in 1968, the population began to decline and now one third of buildings in the neighborhood stand vacant. The neighborhood was locus for the 2015 Baltimore Uprising in response to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Residents of the area report feeling harassed by police presence. 

I am no stranger to vacant houses. As a matter of fact, I still live next door to one in my current neighborhood of Park Heights. Many of the vacant houses in my old neighborhood of Sandtown served as playgrounds and meeting places for my friends and I as children.

West Baltimore Resident Otis Eldridge in Shae McCoy, West Baltimore Ruins (2021)

*Click images in galleries above to enlarge


Black and white portrait of Shae McCoy

Shae McCoy is a photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has been featured in major publications such as Teen VogueCosmopolitan, EssenceBaltimore Magazine, and BMore Art and displayed on the Baltimore Museum of Art website and in the Joan Hisaoka Gallery in Washington DC. Shae is founder of the cultural blog Uncommonrealist.com and has interviewed actors, activists, community leaders, and politicians to creating a spotlight for local artists. Uncommonrealist was nominated for The Inaugural Southern Blogger Impact Awards in 2016 and featured on local platforms such as Docs Castle Media, and Undaground Radar Magazine. In 2018, the blog won an award for Best Entertainment Website.


Interviews

McCoy interviewed current and former residents of West Baltimore during the making of this project. Their words and recollections appear in her book, creating a dialogue between her images and the community that calls these neighborhoods home.

Unique Mical Robinson, 31, Woodland Park Apartments.
Score Swayze, 29, 1411 Division Street.

About the book

Filmed by Shae McCoy. Edited by David Sebastiao. Music by Zadia.

West Baltimore Ruins is available to purchase here.

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Artist’s Talk with Zachary Z. Handler/ ERRANDS in UMBC Magazine

UMBC Magazine features ERRANDS, the first in a series of online exhibits offered by the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery this spring. The artist, Zachary Z. Handler, will give a virtual artist’s talk for the public at noon on February 18. Read the article.

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Zachary Z. Handler
12:00 noon
February 18, 2021

Register here (via Webex)

Sign language interpreter will be provided
Sign language interpreter will be provided
Still life of flower in vase, iPhone with woman on screen, and projected image
Zachary Z. Handler, Abhilasha. Delhi, India. 2020, from series ERRANDS
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Zachary Z. Handler: ERRANDS

In response to stay-at-home orders issued by the State of Maryland on March 30, 2020, Baltimore-based photographer Zachary Z. Handler created ERRANDS, a portrait series documenting the shared shelter-in-place experiences of people around the globe.

Handler conducts portrait sessions remotely via FaceTime, and motivated by a desire to provide care while maintaining connections, every session begins with a conversation. Handler then places the iPhone on which his subject appears in unique tableaux created within the confines of his home using everyday objects and materials close at hand. The resulting photographs capture the joy realized through discovering something remarkable in an ordinary place and through connecting with others despite social distancing. Each ERRANDS portrait depicts more than one person:

in addition to the sitter, the artist’s presence is reflected in the objects and environment in which he stages the photographs. Handler has, to date, photographed 275 people from locations near and far: from Baltimore to San Francisco, from Germany to India. Like the pandemic, the project is still unfolding.

Inspired by the mobile phones on which the series depends and the improvisational aspect of the sessions, this presentation references the children’s game of ‘telephone,’ in which a message is whispered from one participant to the next. Each photograph in this presentation is related to the one preceding and following it in some way, whether through color palette, subject’s gesture, or an object that repeats across frames. This chain of association invites the viewer to participate in the search for connections.


Public Program

Virtual Artist’s Talk: Zachary Z. Handler
12:00 noon
February 18, 2021

Register here (via Webex)


* Click images in gallery above to enlarge

Zachary Z. Handler is a photographer based in Baltimore, Maryland. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where he was a Linehan Artist Scholar, in 2003 and a Master of Arts Administration from Columbia University Teachers College in 2005. In addition to his work as a visual artist, he has constructed a career where the fields of healthcare and art education intersect to provide community and access programs to individuals who are D/deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind. He has also taught arts education classes nationally and internationally to D/deaf and Hard of Hearing youth in foster care.


Behind the Scenes of ERRANDS

Portrait depicting Samuel on iPhone
View of slide projector in the dark
Detail of Samuel's set

Inspiration & details from the set of Samuel’s portrait, from the series ERRANDS

Inspiration for Samuel’s portrait came from a scene in the 1977 Italian horror film Suspiria. The artist projected onto the set a slide modified through collage.

White curtains illuminated by a square of light
Detail of Samuel's set
Illuminated ens of slide projector
Detail of Samuel's set
Detail of Samuel's set
A scene from the film Suspiria

Constructing the set of Andy’s portrait, from the series ERRANDS

Andy, seen on an iPhone, chats with Handler as the artist places a Big Mac, carton of french fries, and large drink around the iPhone on which Andy appears. In a nod to artist Boo Ritson, the McDonald’s meal is covered in wet, dripping white paint.

Portrait of Greg
Close up view of knit shirt

Outtakes from Greg’s portrait session, from the series ERRANDS

Portrait of Greg
Greg, as seen on iPhone
Portrait of Greg


The presentation of this exhibition and public programming is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Charlesmead Initiative

In 2019, the Library Gallery received funding from UMBC’s Charlesmead Initiative to create an arts education program for K-8 Baltimore City youth. Curators began a collaborative project with museum educator Willa Banks to develop a curriculum emphasizing hands-on learning and engagement with original artworks through the gallery’s exhibition program and in the holdings of UMBC’s Special Collections.

During the spring 2019 semester, 90 students from Liberty Elementary and Frederick Elementary schools visited the gallery for an interactive tour of the exhibition Antonio McAfee: Through the Layers, Pt. 2 led by the gallery curators. Students enjoyed putting on 3D glasses to view McAfee’s work, saw rare nineteenth-century photographs from UMBC’s Special Collections that the artist manipulates in his digital photographs, and created collage portraits to take home with them. They shared what they learned over snacks, reflecting on what photographs can tell us about history and how portraits reveal (and conceal) personal identity.

Due to COVID-19, the final two class visits scheduled for March and April were canceled. Curators are now adapting the curriculum for the Spring 2021 semester.

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Antonio McAfee : Through the Layers, Pt. 2

The Magician, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

January 27–March 13, 2020

Since 2011, Antonio McAfee has been making work influenced by historical portraiture of African Americans in the The Exhibition of American Negroes. Organized for the 1900 Paris World Exposition by W.E.B. Du Bois, the display functioned as a legislative, economic, and photographic survey of middle-class African Americans living in Georgia from 1850–1899. This ‘counter archive’ challenged racist assumptions steeped in pseudo-science, presenting proof of the vitality and upward social mobility of southern blacks. For his exhibition at UMBC, McAfee builds upon his earlier work to curate a selection of photographs from our archives that will be displayed alongside new works inspired by the historical images found in UMBC’s Special Collections.

Antonio McAfee is a photographer raised and based in Baltimore, MD. He received his BFA in Fine Art Photography from the Corcoran College of Art and Design, an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Arts and Culture Management from the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg, South Africa). Recent exhibition venues include University of Maryland, College Park’s Stamp Gallery, George Washington University’s Gallery 102 (Washington, DC), Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), and the Walters Art Museum (Baltimore, MD.)

The Gem, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist
Young Man and Dog, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist
Third (3), 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist
Robert Smalls, 2019
Pigment print, 3D image with 3D glasses
© Antonio McAfee, Courtesy of the Artist

Public program:

Thursday, February 27, 2020
5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Art, Race, and the Archive:
Antonio McAfee in Conversation with Shawn Michelle Smith


Installation views


The presentation of this exhibition is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

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Experimentalist: The Art of Robert W. Fichter

Early Fitcher Drawing
Robert W. Fichter
Winged Flying Dog, 1979
Polaroid print
22 x 27 1/8 in.

August 28–December 18, 2019

Experimentalist: The Art of Robert W. Fichter presents the first retrospective of the artist’s career in over thirty years. Drawn from his archive at UMBC, the 55 works in this exhibition created between 1962 and 2006 highlight Fichter’s exploration of the human condition across photography, printmaking, and painting. Fichter employs shifting moods and mediums as well as wit, humor, and satire to deliver trenchant critiques of war, nuclear proliferation, and environmental disaster. Firmly rooting his expressive compositions in a strong sense of place—the surreal landscapes of his native Florida—Fichter presents a singular vision of humanity on the brink.

Medical Analysis, 1983 
Silver dye-bleach print 
Nature Returns, 1989 
Silver dye-bleach print 
Peace in the Kingdom, 1975 
Cyanotype, tempera, watercolor
Bones to Baby Gene Pool
“It’s just like life flashing before your eyes,” 1982  
Color lithograph
A New Photograph of a Successful Weapon of War, 1970 
Cyanotype, gum bichromate print 
Edward Teller Sez We Did It to Make the World Safe for Democracy! 
from the series Bones and Rock Garden Drawings, 1980  
Lithograph, watercolor 

Public Program

September 24, 5:00pm,

The Art of Robert W. Fichter:

Talks by Eileen Cowin, Adam Straus, and Tom Beck


The presentation of this exhibition is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.

Categories

El Sueño Americano/ The American Dream

5 Minutos archival inkjet print
Tom Kiefer
5 Minutos, 2018
Archival inkjet print
©Tom Kiefer

February 4 – May 23, 2019

El Sueño Americano/The American Dream features 59 photographs by Arizona-based artist Tom Kiefer depicting everyday objects carried by migrants detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Considered non-essential by U.S. Customs and Border Control and thus discarded, these personal belongings–from gloves to rosaries and wallets to water bottles–were valued by their owners for their utilitarian, spiritual, or sentimental value. In Kiefer’s graphically striking photographs, these items serve as traces of individual stories that humanize the current migrant crisis.

Tom Kiefer
Heart Assembly,2018
Archival inkjet print
©Tom Kiefer
Used with permission of the artist
Tom Kiefer
Gloves,2013
Archival inkjet print
©Tom Kiefer
Used with permission of the artist


Public Program

5:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Artist Talk with Tom Kiefer

Reception to follow
Free & open to the public


Installation Views


The presentation of this exhibition is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Libby Kuhn Endowment Fund, as well as individual contributions.