Sean Thackrey: Indications In the Field

July 09, 2016 - August 05, 2016

at Commonweal Gallery
451 Mesa Road, Bolinas, CA 94924

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I suppose it should be difficult to explain why, for nearly 60 years, I have worked steadily at photography as an expressive and purely personal art, but have worked entirely in seclusion, without making any effort to exhibit the results. The answer, which in fact is less difficult to express than it may be to understand, is that my photography is for me a matter of life and death, as is so often true of certain artists in almost any medium. A successful work is a resolution to a question that otherwise has none, since it cannot be asked in any other way; so the necessity to me of my work has always been the need to achieve such a resolution, one image, one realization, at a time, and exhibiting this work hasn’t seemed a necessary part of that process.

But of course it is. It’s hardly my own work alone that affects me so strongly or has such great importance in my life; in fact my own work would not exist—which is to say that I would have had no notion of its possibility—were it not for the profound influence on me of that unbroken chain of great work in all media stretching back through the millennia to the caves of Lascaux and Chauvet, which continues to this day to be my constant reference and inspiration.

The corollary to being given so much is to give back whatever I can, and to begin that attempt is the purpose of this exhibition. If these works did not move me, they would not exist; so, they might have real meaning to others as well, and that would please me greatly.

That said, it’s fair to ask what I intend these works to mean to anyone but myself, which is effectively to say, why should they matter to anyone but myself? In other words, what are they and what are they intended to be and do?

What they are is objects, marks on paper, produced by photography; what they are intended to be is objects of contemplation. As such, and as with all other such objects, what they are images of is less important than what, as images, they do.

What they are meant to do is a transmission of mind, since what they are, as images, is of a state of mind, meant of course as including spirit at its most profound level; and all that viewing them should require is a clear, attentive mind, meant here as in Gary Snyder’s early poem, Paiute Creek, where

a clear, attentive mind
has no meaning but that
which sees is truly seen

which my own mind always divides in memory as,

a clear, attentive mind
has no meaning but that
which sees

followed by, as though in explanation,

but that
which sees is truly seen.