stretch

ARTIST'S STATEMENT -- R.K. YOUNG

Some things are too beautiful to be ignored. To me, creating a photograph is a way of acknowledging or respecting what I have seen. Later on, when I review the images, I may decide that I didn’t focus my respect carefully enough and have to trash the image…but if I don’t take the picture in the first place—it’s as if I wasn’t paying attention, and that would be somewhat sinful.

Some people would call this a mindful practice—for me, it stems from some social isolation as a child which gave me the opportunity to spend hours in the treehouse my dad built. I would sit there, sometimes with a sketch pad, and watch the birds. You learn a lot by watching, and because I wanted to know what each of the birds was, I got very good at visually discriminating between the different colors in each bird and how they were patterned. (I also learned that flashier, bigger birds tend to be more timid than little, more subtly-colored birds, but that is somewhat irrelevant.) I still love songbirds and invest far too much in feeding them on a yearly basis!

Those observation skills are practiced when I see images like Marked Time—hence the series name. They also come into play in images I have tagged as “meditations,” but in those images, instead of just noticing, I try to give the most accurate record of what struck me about a scene in the first place. There are no post-production filters used to make the scene “more like” what I thought I was seeing. One of my favorites from this series is Deep Quiet, taken this past winter at the Brevard Music Center.

The work in my most recent exhibit has not deviated far from work I have done previously—trying to honor a particular time, place or event. What has evolved is my desire to create more interrelated images—images that don’t purge all humanity from the context. In fact, with the Altar Series, I’m giving more attention to moments we treat as sacred within our own lives, like family picnics, or waking up in a tent in the forest, or even setting the table—things we do in a certain way or in a certain place because that ritual has become important within the context of our lives. These are images I hope others will recognize and help them remember the sacred nature of their own lives.

ARTIST'S BIO

I was born in Southern California. In all, I’ve lived in or visited roughly 17 states, in addition to Spain and Germany. I like seeing different places, or even the same places in different ways. Some of my favorite trips in South Georgia were taken in hot air balloons—a much more intimate means of experiencing the topography. But there’s much to be said for a small, twin-engine Cessna view of glaciers in Alaska, as well. The way we see things from the air is so markedly different from ground-level perception —I think it may be part of why we climb mountains. 

I earned a B.A. in Art from Converse College, Spartanburg, SC. (Spartanburg’s proximity to our NC mountains no doubt contributed to the decision to move to Brevard in 2008.)  At the time, my concentrations were sculpture and photography. My first Thanksgiving home from school, my mom had an SLR at home that she had purchased for the high school newspaper staff to use—I basically was all over it from the moment I got home. A dear friend of our family observed my obsession and decided that was what he would give me as a late high school graduation present. I shot 350 rolls of film in my first year with that camera, a Canon A-1. I bought black & white film in bulk and rolled it myself—and repaired enlargers in the art department so that I could hog one for myself. I still own that original camera, though I now shoot digital.

Eventually, I ended up teaching art to middle school students in south Georgia—first in Tifton, then in Valdosta. In the first couple of years, I tried to “be an artist” and “be a teacher.” In those years, I had some studio space, and I used it to create mixed media works of ceramic, handmade paper and acrylic and enamel paints. These were the works listed below from 1990 and 1991—playful, textural and abstract. I sold nearly everything I made. But it became clear to me that, if I was going to be a really good teacher, I would have to invest less creative energy in being an artist. 

I returned to photography, which doesn’t necessarily require a studio and can be accomplished sporadically. I did become a good teacher—racking up “Teacher of the Year” awards three times over the span of my teaching career of 19 years before moving to North Carolina. I served as a frequent mentor to student teachers of the visual arts and was recognized by the local university for innovation in teaching and curriculum design. I served with the Southern Artists’ League to increase community engagement with the arts—the video at the link below is from that time.

I left a stable teaching career and moved to Brevard in 2008. The job market being what it was at the time, I have scrambled to get back into a “stable” work environment. My photography equipment fell so far out of date as to make my work non-competitive.

In 2014, at the urging of our local Arts Council Executive Director, I applied for a Regional Artist’s Project grant. To strengthen my application, it was suggested that I get some backers to help match my desired grant funds, to show that I had “people” who believed in my ability to meet the goals I had set out for myself in the grant application. Despite not winning a grant, this incredible group of people “Kickstarted” me into a new camera —the results of which have now been published and exhibited. I owe them an incredible debt of gratitude.

 

selected achievements

  • "In the Belly of the Clouds," exhibit at the Transylvania County Arts Council -- Invitational exhibit with artist Julie Bowland and woodturner Peter B. Mockridge. Brevard, NC 2015
  • Art After Dark, Providing a monthly venue for display of student work, Downtown Valdosta, GA 2007 
  • Student Achievement, 2006-2008. 8th grade advanced art students swept the 6-county poster-design competition for Manufacturing Appreciation Week three years in a row, from 2006 to 2008. In 2006, one of these students also placed 2nd in the state-level competition. 
  • President, Southern Artists’ League, 2006-2007, Valdosta, GA. 
  • 2nd Place, 2-Dimensional, 2006. “Heavy Metal,” Photography
    SAL Juried Exhibition, Valdosta, GA 
  • Best of Spring Into Art, 2006. “Contrasts,” Photography (Juried) 
  • GA Art Education Assoc. Middle Level Teacher of the Year, 2006. 
  • Judge’s Award of Commendation, 2005. “Saturation Point,” Photography
    SAL Juried Exhibition, Valdosta, GA 
  • Teacher of the Year, 1999-2000
    Lowndes Middle School, Valdosta, GA 
  • Teacher of the Year, 1997-1998
    Matt Wilson Middle School, Tifton, GA 
  • Award of Excellence, 1991. “Underwater Lightshow,” Mixed Media
    Thomasville, GA 
  • Best of Show, 1990. “There’s Gold in Them Hills,” Mixed Media
    Valdosta, GA 
  • Co-Founder of the Southern Artists’ League, Inc., 1989. Served as Vice
    President for two years. Valdosta, GA 
 

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