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Art Notes: Photography Project Born of Depression Turns Into a Movement

  • 'Too Tired for Sunshine," Barnard photographer Tara Wray's suite of photographs taken during a period of depression, includes this image, taken in Woodstock in 2014. (Tara Wray photograph)

  • This photograph, taken in Barnard in 2017, is among those in "Too Tired for Sunshine," Tara Wray's 2018 book. (Tara Wray photograph)

  • A photograph taken in Claremont in 2013 by Barnard photographer Tara Wray. (Tara Wray photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2019

Creative work tends to follow a slow progression, steadily accreting until the work is done, then steadily building an audience, or not, while the artist goes to work on the next project.

But sometimes a project expands in unexpected ways, which can be exciting and unsettling at the same time. Barnard photographer Tara Wray is seeing this firsthand.

Wray’s book, Too Tired for Sunshine, came out in July in a small print run through independent publisher Yoffy Press. The photographs were born of a bout of depression Wray endured; making them was a way for her to seek light. The camera became a tool for getting on her feet and the charming, gently surreal photographs describe Wray’s feeling at the time of looking at the world from a perspective slightly askew.

“It’s something that’s bigger than me,” Wray said in a 2017 interview with the Valley News, when she was gathering the work together for the book. “When you’re depressed, your world gets really small, and photography makes it feel less so. … It lessens the vise.”

The response to the book was so encouraging that Wray created the Too Tired Project, inviting people to share their photographs about depression on Instagram. That was in August.

Through the fall, the Too Tired Project made its way through the prismatic landscape of digital media, a mention on a blog here, followed by a story on a photography website there. The Instagram account steadily gained followers and submissions. She held the first Too Tired Project meetup in October in Santa Fe, N.M., as part of a photography portfolio review event.

Then, on Dec. 31, NPR published a story online about Wray’s project, and it has turned a steadily growing audience into a small movement.

“It made a huge difference,” Wray said in a phone interview this week. “It was like a light switch.”

The Instagram account gained 14,000 followers in a matter of days, and new submissions of photographs also grew. “It sort of became like a full-time thing,” Wray said.

The Too Tired Project continues to grow. Wray will host another meetup in Canton, N.Y., next month, and another is planned for Chicago. Meetups, which consist of a slideshow of photographs from the project and a kind of social hour for participants, take place in communities where contributors to the Too Tired Project live.

Social media has become known as a home for fraud and vitriol, but Wray says she’s seen nothing but support since the book came out and the Instagram page went up. She has yet to delete a post or a comment. “I think we’ve just carved out a sort of kinder little corner,” she said.

The internet has been essential to Wray’s work on Too Tired for Sunshine: Funding for the book came from a campaign on the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, and some of the photos in the book had been posted to Instagram beforehand. But the book itself, which is close to selling out its 500-copy print run, was equally important, Wray said.

“I don’t think the program would have happened without the book,” she said. Looking at the photographs on paper, as a physical object, is very different from looking at them while scrolling through Instagram on a smartphone. “Books themselves are like works of art,” she said.

Wray is looking for more people who want to submit their work and for more towns in which to hold slideshows of photographs from the Too Tired Project. In the long run, Wray would like to see the project turn into a “brick-and-mortar-type photography center,” a place where budding photographers could take classes, show their work and find support from a wider community.

In the meantime, Wray has had little time to take photographs herself: “I’m not in that place right now,” she said.

But she would like her next project to be of “elderly people and their sacred objects,” the item or items a person can’t part with and would take to the grave. Contact her at tara@tarawray.net.

Openings and Receptions

ArtisTree Gallery in South Pomfret opens the “Daily Artists Exhibition” with a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 on Friday. The show is the culmination of a year-long pact by a group of artists to make art every day. On view through Feb. 9.

The opening reception for “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” a show of portraits by Maine artist Robert Shetterly from his long-running series of the same name, has been rescheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. on Feb. 2 at White River Gallery in South Royalton.

For the past 17 years, Shetterly has been painting portraits of “Americans Who Tell the Truth,” people who have spoken up for civil rights, the environment and economic fairness. The opening had been planned for Martin Luther King Jr. day, but was postponed by the foul weather.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center holds a 5 p.m. reception and 5:30 p.m. art walk today for its winter exhibitions. The artists include: woodworker Put Blodgett, a Bradford native now living in Hanover; Neysa Russo, who makes wool felt tapestry in Corinth; Westminster, Vt., painter Liz Hawkes deNiord; photographer Bruce Parsons, of New London; painter Alan Zola Shulman, also of New London; pastelist Gale Sweet; painter Sharla Broughton; and oil painter Bill Turner, a retired automotive restorer from Milford, N.H.

A trio of organizations is holding an art walk in Chelsea from 6 to 8 on Friday evening. Chelsea Public Library hosts “Aspects of the Universe,” paintings in acrylic and watercolor by Chelsea artist Marina Sprague, through Feb. 28. North Common Arts shows paintings by Swiss-born artist Friedrich (Fritz) Gross that combine folklore, myth, and fantasy. And SafeArt presents work in a mix of media by local middle school students.

“Explore the White Line Woodcut Print,” a show of prints by Pomfret artist Marilyn Syme, is on view in Osher@Dartmouth’s Hanover offices through March 22. A reception is planned for 2 to 4 p.m. next Thursday.

“Our Vanishing Vermont Landmarks,” an exhibition of pen-and-ink drawings of central Vermont farm buildings by Sandra Brockmeyer Button, is in view in the Gifford Gallery, in Randolph’s Gifford Medical Center, through Feb. 13.

Of Note

Weston, Mass., photographer Rich Perry will talk about “Route 66: A Defining Piece of American History,” photographs of the disused American highway, at 5:30 p.m. today at AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon. Also on view: “as is,” recent work by Newton, Mass., sculptor Michael St. Germain, “Leavings,” an exhibition of recent assemblages by Bradford artist Cindy Blakeslee, and “Paperworks” by Norwich artist Luciana Frigerio. All shows are up through Feb. 1.

Matt Brown Fine Art in Lyme concludes its series of talks about art and literature at 7 p.m. on Wednesday with “Making Sense of Visual Imagery,” a talk by psychology professor Ming Meng examining how we process what we see.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction holds a class on making monoprints taught by printmaker Susan Smereka on Feb. 2 and 3, at a cost of $195 plus a materials fee.

Closing

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, Vt. “Late Works,” an exhibition of recent “construction and collage” by Varujan Boghosian, is accompanied by “A Muse: A visit to the studio of Varujan Boghosian,” a portfolio of photographs by Erick Hufschmid. Through Saturday.

Kilton Public Library, West Lebanon. Recent work by Todd Renninger, through next Thursday.

Ledyard Gallery, Howe Library, Hanover. Artwork by students at Hanover and Norwich schools are on display through Wednesday.

Two Rivers Printmaking Studio, White River Junction. The studio’s holiday show continues through next Thursday.

Ongoing

Betty Grant Gallery, Converse Free Library, Lyme. “15 Years of Monday Painting: A Journey,” features oil paintings by the Monday painting class led by artist Aline Ordman. Through March 30.

Center for the Arts, New London. Current exhibitions include: The seventh annual Juried Regional show at the New London Inn; artwork by Kearsarge Middle School students, at Whipple Hall; abstract paintings by Roger Wells and photographs by Jay Fitzpatrick, at Blue Moon Bakery; and paintings by Tom Pirozzoli and photographs by Ken Schuster, at Bar Harbor Bank and Trust.

Chandler Gallery, Randolph. “Paper Possibilities,” a group show of works made on and of paper by 10 artists, is on view through March 2.

Chew & Co. Design, Hanover. Paintings in egg tempera and precious metals by Windsor artist Gary Milek, through February.

Gallery at the Space on Main, Bradford. “Mainly Street: Searching for that ‘Decisive Moment,’ ” photographs by Kathy Davidow.

The Great Hall, Springfield, Vt. “Healing: The Transformative Imagery of Art” includes work by Margaret Jacobs, of Enfield; Carolyn Enz Hack, of East Thetford; and Robert O’Brien, Robert Carsten and Neomi Lauritsen, of Springfield. Through March 30.

Jaffe-Friede Gallery, Hopkins Center, Hanover. “Where We Come From,” work by artist-in-residence Emily Jacir, is on view through March 3. In the adjacent Strauss Gallery is “Book Arts Across Disciplines: Work Made in the Dartmouth Book Arts Workshop,” also up through March 3

John D. Bennett Gallery, Claremont. Paintings by Vermont artist Jamie Townsend are on view through mid-February.

Long River Gallery and Gifts, White River Junction. “The Mind Is a City,” an exhibition of mixed media work by Becky Coburn, kicks off Long River’s series of exhibitions by emerging artists. Coburn, of Amesbury, Mass., is in long-term recovery from substance abuse and draws on her experiences to inform her work.

Main Street Museum, White River Junction. “Jack Rowell, Cultural Documentarian: Portraits of Vermont People and Other Wildlife,” is on view.

Matt Brown Fine Art, Lyme. A show featuring work by artists Susan Arnold and Sara Goodman is on view through Feb. 9.

Royalton Memorial Library, in South Royalton, Paintings by South Woodstock artist Sue Lenfest.

Scavenger Gallery, White River Junction. Recent prints by Lois Beatty and handmade jewelry by gallery owner Stacy Hopkins.

Steven Thomas, Inc. Fine Arts & Antiques, White River Junction. Work by Upper Valley “vintage” artists, such as Alice Standish Buell, John Semple and Horace Brown is on view.

Taylor Gallery, Kimball Union Academy, Meriden. “Color and Energy,” an exhibition of acrylic paintings by Maine artist Maria Castellano-Usery, is in view through Feb. 9.

Tunbridge Public Library. “Coming Into the Light,” paintings by Tunbridge artist Anna Ross, is on view at through Feb. 25.

White River Craft Center, Randolph. “Branching Out,” watercolor paintings by Amy Hook-Therrien, a Randolph native now living in Windsor, are up through Feb. 8.

Zollikofer Gallery, in White River Junction, hosts “Landscapes Near and Far,” an exhibition of paintings by Thetford artist Jean Gerber. A reception is planned for Feb. 1, and the show is up through March 30.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.