The Vivian Cherry exhibition opened September 7th, 2012 with a book signing on Sept. 8th. The 92 year old photographer and author delighted us with her presence at the Lionheart Gallery. Her documentary style photographs captivate the viewers and bring them into the world of New York City during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Vivian Cherry captures the excitement, romanticism, wonder, and disturbing moments of a changing world in the 35 silver gelatin photographs lining the walls.
When looking around the Gallery, I can think of five images that directly speak of these feelings.
The first of which, titled “Hudson River” printed in 1955.
This image bleeds of romanticism as the couple says their goodbyes he lights their cigarettes before taking his sack of belongings and ventures out into the sea.
2. “Playing Lynching”
While civil rights and Nazism dominated the news in the 1940′-1960’s, the impoverished children of Harlem dealt with these topics by playing “gun games” and pretending to be lynched. Although this image is haunting, it marks a disturbing time in our nation’s history when the Truman administration attempted to pass laws making lynching a federal crime and the backlash and criticism of the KKK.
I look at this image and not only do I think of the time and location this boy existed but about how his life progressed. Did he make it through the times of social turmoil to come?
3. “Three Kids Watching a Plane”
These three girls of Harlem sit staring in wonder at a sighting of an airplane. Their faces can only be described as perplexed and in awe possibly contemplating the logistic of a piece of metal flying through the air like a bird. It makes me wonder about the last time we sat back and said “wow this defies everything I understand at the moment, let me think about the people who made this possible.” I don’t remember doing that nearly as often as I should and perhaps that is why this piece stands out in my mind so much.
4. “Man Looking at Jane Russell”
This image not only speaks of a time of technological advancement utilizes stereographic imaging to make a motion picture 3D but it also speaks of women in the 1950’s. Her pelvic area is blacked out in this advertisement while the man looks at the rest of her full frame. It makes me think of the Modess feminine hygiene product advertisements only reading “because…” at the bottom.
5. “The Butcher”
The Jewish butcher happily standing outside his shop eager to assist you in picking out a suitable cut of meat. His profession has long since demised by the introduction of homogenized grocery store chains that occupy plazas across the nation. When I begin to look at this image his joyful smile welcomes me to the photograph.
Vivian Cherry’s work will be on display through December, however it will be consolidated to one room during mid-November. Please stop by the gallery!
Cherry’s Publications (Helluva Town, Vivian Cherry’s New York and Vignettes) are on exhibit and the images arefor sale at the gallery.
Our regular hours are
Wed – Sat: 11am – 5pm
and Sun: 12pm – 4pm
Written by Heather Gene Braxton, Lionheart Gallery Assistant