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gianna's first solo exhibition

Hello friends! 

I am currently sitting in bed avoiding a ten pager by drinking mango vanilla tea and listening to Chet Baker. I thought it was about time that I shared some thoughts about a recent exciting event- my first photography exhibition! For starters, I have never even entered an exhibition or had any idea about what the process looked like. I have rarely even printed photographs. For the longest time my work was centered around events, brochures, family portraits, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love providing people with images of themselves, loved ones, or cherished moments- it brings me a lot of joy. And after all, there are people who cannot afford this service or have never even had the privilege of having their portrait taken (side note: check out Help Portrait, a non-profit that is doing some pretty neat work). Anyway, I am trying to explore some new artistic territory. I want to create images that are dynamic and challenging; images that create change. I want to translate some of my personal thoughts into imagery, being that my primary mode of being is visual. I want to learn to make art as service, sacrifice, and sacrament (from Bruce D. Lockerbie's, The Timeless Moment) . Working out my philosophy of art (specifically photography) has been a recent and thrilling endeavor, as some of you may know. It has caused me to think much more critically about what I create and why I create (more to come on this topic).



Before I stray too far, let me return to the initial purpose of this post: to share more about my exhibition. Although I have been photographing since I was in seventh grade, my formal knowledge of photography is pretty slim- especially when it comes to production. Being the impatient person that I am, I jumped right into the process of purchasing frames, mostly as an excuse to take a trip to IKEA, which is probably one of my favorite places on earth. Three cups of lingonberry juice later I was buzzing around the framing section with absolutely no agenda. I knew I wanted white frames with white mats, and that's about it. I ended up buying way too many of the 16x20 RIBBA Series (and two 19 3/4 x 27.5's) . I had a floorpan of the gallery and had done the math (thinking I would need about 21 frames), but this is before my "less is more" philosophy kicked in. Anyway, moving on. 

The next few weeks were certainly a steep learning curve. The opening of the mats required me to print a 7.5 x 9.5 image, which sounded pretty easy. I quickly learned that this was not the case. Without reliving the stress (my heart rate is increasing as I am typing these words), let's just say that navigating the photo exporting process is quite tricky. To spare you all a lot of numbers and nerdy camera formatting/photoshop talk (that I still don't understand, shoutout to Cher for being patient with me), let's just say that I ended up needing to get my mats custom cut to an 8x12 size (aka: e x p e n s i v e). Given the size of my original files, I would not be able to use my frames unless I cropped my photos (which I decided was not an option). I didn't have time to buy new frames so I quickly delivered them to a shop that promised to have them done by Thursday afternoon (I had to leave Friday morning). Below is a sketch done by the talented Luke Nemitz (his site will be live soon, check it out- to help me visualize the space and pair the photos together. 


I had quite the sleepless week as I was selecting photos, re-sizing, remembering their locations, checking in on my prints, and of course, writing my statement. Everything was ready by Wednesday which was an absolute miracle. I had submitted my photos and orders by Monday, and was expecting to be framing the day of. I went to check in on my photos and it turns out they were all printed and ready to go. I maxed out my studio space on Wednesday night to frame for a few hours, all while listening to Josh Garrels. Ever since viewing The Sea In Between (HIGHLY recommended), it has been the soundtrack to most of my creative processes. 

The photos I chose were all from my experiences in Orvieto, Italy. In the weeks leading up to my trip (which some of you may know was a big step for me) I realized that I had to start changing my thought patterns. Being the aesthetics nerd that I am I began to re-read some of my clippings and articles about beauty. If i could find the beauty in fear, then I could quickly become friends with it. I came across this, which led me to the title of my show. 

"In virtually every page of the Tempest, the word wonder appears, or else some synonym for it. Miranda's name is Latin for wonder, her favorite adjective brave seems to mean both good and out-of-the-ordinary, and the combination rich and strange means the same. What is wonder? J. V. Cunningham describes it in the book I mentioned as the shocked limit of all feeling, in which fear, sorrow, and joy can all merge. There is some truth in that, but it misses what is wonderful or wondrous about wonder. It suggests that in wonder our feelings are numbed and we are left limp, wrung dry of all emotion. But wonder is itself a feeling, the one to which Miranda is always giving voice, the powerful sense that what is before one is both strange and good. Wonder does not numb the other feelings; what it does is dislodge them from their habitual moorings. The experience of wonder is the disclosure of a sight or thought or image that fits no habitual context of feeling or understanding, but grabs and holds us by a power borrowed from nothing apart from itself. The two things that Plotinus says characterize beauty, that the soul recognizes it at first glance and spontaneously gives welcome to it, equally describe the experience of wonder. The beautiful always produces wonder, if it is seen as beautiful, and the sense of wonder always sees beauty."

All that to say, as feelings of fear overwhelmed me I immediately turn them into wonder…wonder of the unknown as opposed to crippling fear. The Italian word for wonder is “meraviglia (meh-ra-veel-ya)”. And if you ask me, that word sounds infinitely more beautiful than fear! If I am seeking the beauty in fear, perhaps it comes from wonder. Although the author of this article disagrees with Cunningham’s definition of wonder (the merging of fear, sorrow, and joy), I think it is kind of neat. 


All I can say is this: IKEA will not refund you for the 11 extra frames that you bought if the only receipt that you have is from your cafeteria lunch from that day. They will, however, give you an IKEA credit (let's be honest, my refund would be been spent on lingonberry juice anyway).



All I can say is this: when handling white mats and x-acto knives, make sure not to slice your finger open and stain the mats red. If for some reason this does happen, dab, don't rub. 


7:00 a.m. wake up call, endless coffee, way too much math, non-stop craziness from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (minus the mac and cheese pizza break). The set-up process took much longer then expected. 

I had my gallery opening at 5:30 and made sure to spend at least ten minutes getting some fresh air and calming my nerves. Seeing your photos printed and hung is a really scary experience. These are all images that I have posted online before and have received some good feedback on (whatever that means). But nothing describes the vulnerability of having a physical copy of your work hung on a blank wall; no Facebook status above or below to distract from it. It is quite terrifying. My appreciation for gallery spaces began to deepen; although expensive and most of the time difficult to attain, these spaces are set apart for true appreciation. It gave my photographs an entirely different feel. 


So, without further adu, Gianna's first artist statement and digital copies of the selections for her first gallery!


Towards the end of my two-month stay in Orvieto, Italy last summer, my boss took me to dinner with a woman in her seventies named Mimma. On our way to her apartment, we ran into her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson on the street. The small, shy boy grabbed on to his mother’s legs as I introduced myself. As I kneeled down to greet him, I noticed that one of his eyes was much smaller and underdeveloped. We parted ways and they continued their walk home. A few steps later the boy ran as fast as he could towards us, looking up with his arms reached towards the sky, screaming “Nana!”. We looked up and there was Mimma, blowing kisses outside from a window high above. On our way up the stairs my boss proceeded to explain the meraviglia (that is, the wonder) of what we just witnessed. Mimma’s grandson had been born almost entirely blind and in recent months, without explanation, had begun to recover eyesight in one of his eyes. Now he could see his grandmother’s warm smile, perfectly plated bruschetta, and my personal favorite- the walls in her apartment. Allow me to explain. 

During dinner, while John and Mimma were bantering in Italian, I noticed the wall to the right of my seat. I was positive that the Pollock-esque splatter markings on the wall were intentional. I asked Mimma what they were, to which she replied “That is espresso. It is from all of the times that I left my bialetti (a small espresso percolator) on the stove too long. It explodes all over the wall!” I told her that it resembled (or even surpassed) most “arte moderna” (modern art). She agreed. 

It is with the simple yet extraordinarily complex ability to see that we gain understanding. The wall in Mimma’s apartment was not just a wall, it was her life made into art, just like her grandson’s newfound ability to see was more than just a physical phenomenon. Sight, on both a physical and spiritual level, is important. It is a gift and a privilege. It situates us in the surrounding world. But our ability to see is in decline. 

Our sight has been obscured by our restlessness, busyness, and the visual noise produced by our media saturated society, 

Part of why I photograph is to recover this lost art of seeing. To ask: are we really seeing ourselves, each other, our culture? A good picture reorients you to the truth of reality; it points out the beauty laid deep in the things so many often pass by and it calls back, helping us to see again, revealing truths both lovely and terrifying. 

To create is a hopeful act; to create is, as Madeline L’engle puts it, “to affirm meaning, despite all the ambiguities and tragedies and misunderstandings which surround us.” Let these photos of Orvieto be what they are, a place of rest, a catalytic exchange, order. If only for a moment. 


During my opening a young girl came up up to me and body said "Hi! I don't know you, but I left a message in your book." It's pictured below, and needless to say, pretty worth all of the hard work.

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