Saturday, May 02, 2009

DC gallery to close

I've been holding this closure very ahhh.. close to my chest, waiting for the owner to announce it, but already several of you have emailed me asking about it... so expect a major DC area gallery to announce its closure soon.

Update: Bethesda's Heineman-Myers is the gallery which is closing its physical doors, but I understand that Zoe will continue to work as a private dealer.

Portraits of Lives Lived in the Shadows

By Robin Tierney

David Habercom, Adrift 5During a visit to Knoxville, I filled my journal with the stories of a dozen or so folks revitalizing the city’s core as a walkable arts district that retains its downhome roots. Just as interesting were the rootless Knoxvillians encountered through the photographs of David Habercom.

In the process of moving his studio from the Emporium Center for Arts & Culture downtown to his new home, Habercom now shows his work on the web. Three series capture the individual character and spirit of those pushed into society’s margins – those, he says, are commonly regarded as “gypsies, unattractives, these humiliations in the street.”

For “5th Avenue Motel,” he documented residents, some dwelling there for 20 years, soon before they were evicted a couple of years ago.

Habercom points to one photo: “The dog in 5th Ave 1 [below to right] is hard to see, since he was a huge, black Labrador-type guy. His name was Bear. The python was called Jake the Snake. This couple had lived in the 5th Avenue for eight years.”David Habercom, 5thAve 1

After eviction, 5th Avenue residents moved into low-end apartments, public housing, or the streets, said Habercom. “Knoxville has a very good record of helping the homeless, so [they] had a number of reliable resources to get them reestablished.”

The sun bounced hot off the pavement as I tramped to the urban ruins at Fifth and Broadway. Built in 1913, by mid-century the Minvilla townhomes housed squatters as the neighborhood declined. While dismissed as derelicts, the dwellers included decent unfortunates who lacked family or government safety nets. It’s a reminder how fine a line exists between the have-nots and the haves who have gamed public programs, lax loan guidelines and tax/regulatory rules to spawn new breeds of burdens to society.

I imagine the souls pictured by Habercom in the hollow quarters decorated only by unartful tags. In 2007, following the eviction, the furnishings, interiors, windows and facades were stripped. A smiley face nests in the “O” of a jauntily drawn F*ck you inside one doorway.

A sign by the chain-link fence sagging around the property announces “Future Home of the Minvilla Manor.” A little digging reveals that VMC Volunteer Ministry Center across the street is helping some of the displaced, and the City of Knoxville is finalizing a Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. Plans include restoring Minvilla as "supportive housing” model with onsite social workers, health services and drug/alcohol treatment to help the homeless grip those bootstraps.

In his “Viaduct” series, Habercom turned his lens to resourceful loners who made homes under Knoxville’s Gay Street bridge.

For his newest project, he collaborated with public radio news editor Matt Shafer Powell and musician/artist Bob Deck. "Adrift on American Streets" pairs formal studio portraits of 27 homeless people with a soundtrack of their stories, self-told. ”We published the project as a DVD because couldn't afford a gallery show. Which is too bad, since that format would blow everybody away.”

Check a 5-minute preview clip at this website.

There’s plenty to see by walking the streets of Knoxville. Walk north from the cluster of downtown galleries on South Gay to the industrial+art district dubbed Downtown North. At Ironwood Studios, look for John McGilvray’s clever woodworkings and Preston Farabow’s “Aespyre” metal creations from racetrack debris art to delicate finials.

If your feet get tired, hop on the free trolley.

Linda Evans of Dogwood Arts tells me about the city’s coalescing arts scene: new public art around town (Krutch Park, World’s Fair Park, the Convention Center), new galleries and juried competitions. Time a visit to catch the monthly First Fridays.