Tools and Shrouds by Stephen Althouse
Art Museum, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
February 15 – March 28, 2006
The photographs of STEPHEN ALTHOUSE transform familiar objects into symbols of human experience and spiritual striving. Through his poetic images of old and outworn artifacts, he makes visible that which we often fail to see -- the intimate and intricate beauty and meaning of everyday things.
In Althouse’s photography, old and derelict refugees of his and our past evoke new mysteries. Wrapped, bound, or shrouded in white cloth, many of his objects create a dialogue between freedom and constraint, flight and imprisonment, death and resurrection. Often featuring objects like saws, chisels and wrenches, Althouse’s images also serve as monuments to human labor and the significance and value of work. Whether depicting the sinuous leather straps of an old bridle or the well-scrubbed ridges of an ancient wooden washboard, the images of Althouse’s artifacts become powerful visual metaphors for the lives of the people who have used them. Through his unique command of extreme photographic detail, Althouse reveals the worn and scarred surfaces of his artifacts, the presence of generations of hands that have held them, and references the timeless untold challenges and struggles of common people confronting their daily tasks.
The magic of Althouse’s images begins with his discovery of objects that, for him, seem to embody some special sense of memory, mystery, or enchantment. Recapturing his found subjects through the process of photography, he enshrines them in large-scale, minimalist compositions that transcend the ordinary and turn the everyday into the epic. The power and drama of Althouse’s images also arise from the unique photographic method that he has developed to produce his black and white inkjet prints. Combining both traditional and digital photographic technologies, he creates an interplay of light, shadow and contrast to render his subjects in mesmerizing detail against a palette of glowing whites and velvety blacks.
Joanne Cubbs, Mark McPhail, Gene Metcalf, Art Critics and Curators, Oxford, Ohio