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Water, Water Everywhere

Kevin J. Miyazaki and ‘Dark Blue’ photos at the Haggerty

Feb. 3, 2013
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Why wonder about water on Mars, when there’s plenty to ponder from the shores of Lake Michigan? Photographer Kevin J. Miyazaki navigated the lake’s 1,800-mile perimeter this past summer with a portable studio ready to record, via digital C-prints, the diverse personalities he encountered. The result is his current exhibition, “Perimeter,” at the Haggerty Museum of Art.

As befits a photographer with an excellent eye, the exhibition is expertly installed in a snug 8-by-10 foot “harbor” at the Haggerty. To the north, dead ahead, a grey wall devoid of images; to the west, a wall of the many moods of Lake Michigan, beginning and ending with views from
Bradford Beach; to the east, a wall enlivened with the pleasant faces of regular folks. The parquet flooring, sandwiched between water and folks, suggests a dock. From all directions the views are spectacular, thanks in part to the dedication of the museum’s executive director, Wally Mason, and Lynne Shumow, its curator of education. Various versions of this exhibition will appear on other horizons, so look sharp when it closes on May 19.

The several galleries beyond Miyazaki’s display house a related exhibition, “Dark Blue: The Water as Protagonist,” a veritable celebrity cruise that includes artists Gregory Crewdson, Tina Barney and Richard Misrach. It goes far beyond a romp at various beaches, now and then sucking us under water unleashed. Beware of the undertow.

I queried Emily, a museum student-guard and Marquette freshman from Illinois, to pinpoint her favorite among the many possibilities. We sat on a bench and studied Amanda and Her Cousin Amy—Valdese, North Carolina, a 1990 Gelatin Silver print by Mary Ellen Mark. “The image of a very young girl (perhaps age 10?) smoking a cigarette while standing in an inflatable pool, grabbed my attention immediately,” she said. We agreed that the nymph’s body language (one arm crossed over her budding breasts) suggests both vulnerability and a determination to deflate the pool and get on with her life.

Also included in “Dark Blue” is a disturbingly dark work by Diane Arbus in which a lone white swan floats on a lake in front of the Disneyland faux castle. If water has the power to refresh and the power to destroy, in Arbus’ fairytale image, it also retains the power of magic.         


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