Technology's thoughtful side 

Technology of Meaning
Herron Galleries
through Nov. 26

Personal tragedy is often fodder for the artist’s imagination. Contemporary artist Ruth Adams found light at the end of her dark tunnel — light symbolizing life rather than death. Adams’ ironically hopeful Polaroid photograph installation recounting the 365 days of her journey through illness and recovery (her cancer remains in remission) is one of the more provocative contributions in the exhibition Technology of Meaning on view at Herron Galleries.

Locally organized — which is to say, Herron professor Patrick Manning spearheaded the effort to bring together the five participating artists who employ technology in service of their worldview rather than create art that celebrates technical virtuosity — the exhibition is among the gallery’s more contemplative offerings this year.

The exhibition includes a few well-chosen works of art that offer unique perspectives utilizing the photographic media: Wet plates, the aforementioned Polaroids, vintage television sets and video are surprisingly unobtrusive media for such deep contemplations. The artists explore adoption and the nature of identity (Tarrah Krajnak), television as carrier of truth (Frank Burton), images of our distant geologic past (Alison Carey), photographed scenes suggesting a fourth dimension of perception (T.A. Trombley) — and of course there’s Adams’ personal narrative.

None of the work populating the three connected gallery spaces is overtly tricky, although tricks are employed to arresting effect. Krajnak’s manipulated photographs fill a gallery space, each a layering of images of adoptive ancestors upon her own visage. A projected image rather than a static one peers from one wall so that we see Krajnak’s face change. The result is a roomful of eerie portraits literally springing from darkness.

Burton’s “Untitled Conversations Piece” is just that: a conversation between two vintage black-and-white televisions, bits of sound and a single dancing light comprising the nonsensical dialogue. Burton enshrines the ritual of television watching in “Television Portrait Family Room,” a luminescent space composed of an image of the family on long strips of paper that resemble vertical blinds. The space is both sacred and permeable; such is the nature of truth.

Carey’s imagined scenes of our underwater past, realized through photographs of clay models of Paleozoic marine life, are equally poetic and subtle. Finally, Trombley’s series of photographs set up to be viewed through 3-D glasses (dual images are seen as one through the lenses) suggest a dimensional quality to perception that is equally objective and subjective.

Overall, this is a somber but thoughtful space: visually dark, subtly macabre, suggestive of poetic depth rather than the technological equivalent of klieg lights, as characterizes so much of art sprung from technological media.

Technology of Meaning is on view through Nov. 26 at Herron Galleries, Herron School of Art and Design, 735 W. New York St. Call 317-287-9419 or 317-278-9423 or visit for more information. Gallery hours: daily 11-5; Friday through 8 p.m. Also on view down the hall in the Frank and Katrina Basile Gallery is Craig Ryan Photographs recounting local artist Ryan’s recording of roadside memorials with a simple pinhole camera.

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