My daughter and I drove out to Brattleboro, Vermont, to see Lindsey Beal’s photography exhibition and her scheduled artist talk and closing reception at the Vermont Center for Photography (VCP). Lindsey is a faculty member at NHIA, and I had the pleasure of having her critique my work during my first residency. I had not yet had the opportunity to visit the VCP, so I was also excited for the opportunity. Besides, I love Brattleboro. What a great Vermont town right on the border of New Hampshire.
Lindsey’s talk was scheduled at 4pm, so we arrived earlier to peruse through the collection. The focus of the work appealed to my feminist nature, so I was super excited to see what she had created. Most of the work she produced revolved around the idea of how technology has affected women’s bodies throughout history. There were additional pieces from her Venus Series, which were photographs of small, handmade paper sculptures reminiscent of the ancient Venus figures unearthed mostly in the 19th century.
Upon arriving at the VCP I was surprised by how small it was. I guess I was expecting a larger space, perhaps with multiple gallery rooms. There was a large table at the center of the space and someone sitting there working on a laptop, plugged into an outlet on a nearby wall underneath some of Lindey’s work. I had assumed that was where the talk would be.
We circled through the space, looking at the art and reading the associated text. The different bodies of work were all unique into themselves though connected by the common theme of historic technology influences on women’s bodies. The cyanotype “Petri dishes” of different strains of STDs were strangely compelling, beautiful in a sordid, morose manner. The paper banners of contraceptive prints were very nicely patterned and yet comical in what the patterns contained (condoms, etc.). As a historian in a previous iteration of this life, I was drawn to the vintage-style images of intimate appliances or personal massagers. I enjoyed the irony of seeing some of those images placed in union cases, where one might have placed a photograph or silhouette of a loved one to carry on their person or in traveling. The historic gynecological and obstetric tools were a bit chilling, as I considered their actual use and how that might have been experienced. The corsetry silhouettes were quite beautiful, if one did not understand just how torturous those devices were for women, and how they damaged the female body over time, all for the sake of aesthetics. And finally, the Venus Series, which also contained one of the handmade paper sculptures encased in glass. Quite lovely.
I was not sure of the etiquette for taking photographs of another person’s photographs, so I limited it to just grabbing a bit of the text to read again later.
As we completed our survey of Lindsey’s work, I realized it was about ten-to-four, and nothing seemed to be happening to prepare for the talk, so I inquired with the gentleman sitting at the desk when you first walk in. He was extremely apologetic. Apparently he had updated Facebook and sent out an email that Linsey had woken up that morning very ill and could not make it to do the talk. Note to self, check email more frequently on the weekend. I had missed the notice. Well you can’t fault someone for being sick, so while I was disappointed at not being able to hear Lindsey talk about her work in person, I was glad to have the opportunity to see the exhibit, to finally check out the VCP, and to visit Brattleboro. The gentleman gave us a gallery guide to the local area in Brattleboro and suggested we visit the local art museum. We decided that sounded like a wonderful idea and headed over there right afterward.