The artwork of Take/Aim at ASU’s Northlight Gallery, in collaboration with the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, is not for the faint of heart. The photographs of the various artists center on an exploration of hunting and the sub-culture surrounding this most ancient of human activities.
As a collective show, the works display a wide variety of tone and tactic from the different artists. One of the artists, Jesse Burke, described in his talk the attempt to document the landscape and community of his New England home, searching the ways in which “this landscape made me who I am, becoming more familiar with the landscape of the archetypal masculine New England figures.” His work, he asserts, “allows the viewer to have high and then quiet moments.” His photographs of objects: hunting blinds, hunting jackets, and the various implements used by hunters provides a glimpse into a world that may be unfamiliar- even disturbing- to many.
A common thematic for the show is a sense of being witness. As if the artists were on assignment into a foreign land, the images often feel slightly removed from the participants. The photographs record the events, but a sense of unease or separation is palpable.
Asserting that the artists “depict a correlation between destruction, survival, tradition and sport” images step close to the violence implicit in the taking of life. The thrill of the chase is mostly absent, instead the photographs center on what remains in the moments after.
In this way, the experience of nature serves as a container rather than a participant. As the world’s population becomes more compressed, with more people living in urban environments than rural our relationship to place is navigated through a highly altered landscape. We visit but do not live in the unaltered natural world. As strangers in a strange land, these images often highlight this distance between.
In the work of Erika Larsen, however, the images take a step closer to the participants. In a triptych of biographical images, Larsen captures a sense of the daily reality of the hunting community. For them, there is no strangeness to the experience: it is, in fact, their natural world.
Ultimately, the show is a thematically successful collection. Each piece is distinctive between the various artists and serves to heighten the uneasy curiosity many of the viewers are likely to bring to the subject matter. Violence is implicit, but not glorified; hunters are depicted, but not valorized.
Take/Aim is on display at the ASU Northlight Gallery, and runs until December 2nd.