|Travelling Through, installation view|
As someone who teaches art history, and landscape art in particular, to students whose degree is in art practice, curating also enables me to bridge what they experience as a gap or disconnect between practice and so-called theory, between their lives as artist and art history at large.
It also gives me a chance to make what I do and who I am feel more connected.
Angus McBean’s personal album of travel photographs featuring McBean and his gay companions (1966)
In my latest interactive and evolving exhibition, Travelling Through: Landscapes/Landmarks/Legacies (on show at the School of Art, Aberystwyth University, Wales until 8 February 2019), I bring together landscape paintings, ceramics, fine art prints, travel posters and luggage labels, which are displayed alongside personal photographs, both by a famous photographer (Angus McBean) and by myself.
Here is how I tried to describe the display of those never before publicly displayed images from my personal photo albums:
For this collage, I rummaged through old photo albums and recent digital photographs. When I lived in New York, from 1990 to 2004, I very rarely photographed the city. All of these images either predate that period or were produced after it. The historic event of 11 September 2001 can be inferred from the presence and absence of a single landmark.
The World Trade Center is prominent in many of my early tourist pictures. Now, aware of my gradual estrangement from Manhattan, I tend to capture the vanishing of places I knew.
|Lost New York City landmarks: Twin Towers and Gay Pier, 1987|
Back in the 1980s, New York was not the glamorous metropolis I expected to find as a tourist. My early photographs reflect this experience. Most are generic views of the cityscape. Others show that I tentatively developed an alternative vision I now call ‘gothic.’ Yet unlike Rigby Graham, whose responses to landscape are displayed elsewhere in this gallery, I could never quite resist the sights so obviously signposted as attractions.
Like the personal photo album of the queer Welsh-born photographer Angus McBean, also on show in this exhibition, these pages were not produced with public display in mind. McBean’s album was made at a time when homosexuality was criminalised. It is a private record of his identity as a gay man.
I came out during my first visit to New York. The comparative freedom I enjoyed and the liberation I experienced were curtailed by anxiety at the height of the AIDS crisis.
Being away from home can be an opportunity to explore our true selves. Travelling back with that knowledge can be long and challenging journey.
Harry Heuser, exhibition curator
Pennant Tour of Wales featuring illustrations by Rigby Graham, with one of my photo albums and a collage of luggage labels beneath it