Snapshots of grandparents typically involve a special family gathering, such as birthday parties with a lot of happy faces. Usually, the grandparents are fully clothed, as well. However, Maryville College alumna Ginger Frye’s photography exhibit, on display in the Blackberry Farm Gallery in the Clayton Center through the end of October, is anything but typical.
Frye, class of 2007, has chosen to feature snapshots of her grandfather shirtless for the annual alumnus exhibit that the gallery is presenting for homecoming this year. This particular project is a documentation of the life of Frye’s grandfather after he had two major heart surgeries.
Through her detailed and poignant photographs, viewers can acquire the theme Frye describes within her artist’s statement as “how age and trauma may shape the human form, as well as the invaluable influence of family heritage on an individual’s identity.”
The pictures rely heavily on specific details and unorthodox settings, in order to portray this theme. For instance, one image depicts Frye’s grandfather, sitting alone with a costumed woman at a playhouse, laughing. This dreamlike setting provides some context as to what her grandfather does aside from his day-to- day activities. However, even in fairly normal settings, such as the image of the grandfather having a meal with three other individuals, the angled position of several items on the table and the aerial view of the scene lead the viewer’s eye straight to the main subject.
While each image could be considered a standalone piece, the message of identity and age is portrayed clearly when viewing the exhibit as a whole. One of the many untitled pieces in the exhibit features a scene with Frye’s grandfather surrounded by steam, presumably in the shower. This is a stunning image to behold, but paired with the other images of his daily life, a certain beauty in the routine is revealed. The vividly colored images might seem at home in a family album; however, the total focus on Frye’s grandfather and his body is clear.
Not only is he the main subject of each photograph, but also the compositions always lead the eye straight to the absence of his shirt. The focal point is clearly on the impact that trauma takes on the human body. Because Frye’s work is particularly focused in photography, some viewers might be taken aback at the emotional content of her show.
“What we normally see in photography, fashion images or magazine or ads on TV are not an old man who has had his chest cracked open to have heart surgery,” said Mark Hall, the faculty director for Blackberry Farm Gallery. “I think it’s very powerful stuff.” Hall also remembers Frye’s work as a student. He said that as a student athlete on the Scots softball team, Frye decided to focus her thesis on composite action scenes.
The project consisted of around a hundred of images, making up one complete composite scene of a singular action shot. The photos took up an entire hallway of the gallery of the previous fine arts center. Frye is just one example of how the art department keeps in touch with its alumni.
Although Hall stated that some students, as with any major, lose touch with the college after they graduation, the professors are usually able to tell the students who will remain involved with MC. From internships with alumni, to those who graduated coming back to show Maryville College art majors what they’ve done, the connection that is maintained to the graduates of the department is vitally important in showing current students what comes next, as well.
Frye’s exhibit is one such example of the opportunities that are given to those who stay in touch with the college after graduation. It is also a demonstration of the success that an MC student can find by continuing to pursue his or her passions, just as Frye did with her photography.