Art: Looking back, moving forward

Cami Burruss documents a year of her life

Cami Burruss has a lot on her to-do list this summer. Graduate high school, check. Buy dorm room essentials, check. Show a collection of original work at local gallery, also check.

Eighteen-year-old Burruss’ photographs and mixed media pieces are on display at Revelry Gallery this month, the culmination of a year-long endeavor entitled “Project 365.” From May 31, 2011, to May 31, 2012, Burruss took a photograph documenting each day, giving it a caption, and posting it on Tumblr and Facebook. Burruss tried to choose the most significant photo for each day, and the captions, from song lyrics to Shel Silverstein quotations, either play off the photo or encapsulate the day itself. Woven together, the images and text form a digital scrapbook of a year in the life of Cami.

“Project 365” and other projects like it have become increasingly popular as cell phones and digital cameras make it easy to document our lives with the tap of a finger. Burruss stumbled across another photographer’s 365 last spring. A high school junior at the time, she was intrigued and decided to embark on a 365 of her own. On the first day of her project, she wrote, “A lot can happen in a year, and a lot of new people can be brought into your life, in just a matter of moments, some who change the way you look at the world itself. So at the end of each year, do you remember all that you did and all these people who altered you? Did you live each day, or just survive?”

At Revelry, a sample of “Project 365” is on display — from mixed media pieces using images and captions from the year to jewelry and a smattering of loose photographs. The photographs are immediately engaging, from cross-filtered still-lifes to vibrant landscapes. Each photo includes the accompanying caption on the back, and the edges of each image are artfully burnt, the charred borders clipped to a delicate clothesline.

The mixed media pieces veer from canvas into sculpture. Jars flickering with the glow of electric tea lights dangle from a birch branch, illuminating a photograph of anonymous arms wrapped in Christmas lights; dreamcatchers spin gently, their feathers dancing between silvery skylines and vibrant arcades. “With the mixed media, I really wanted to support each picture,” Burruss says. “Before now, I had mostly done photography, so these are the first real art pieces I’ve created. It’s nice to have something tangible.”

It’s hard to pick just one standout piece from this very strong collection, and Burruss herself considers the images shown to be the best sampling from the overall project. Her personal favorites tend to come from the out-of-state photos, when she was in a foreign environment, “noticing things for the first time.” However, she says the images of Louisville were particularly rewarding. “There were some days when I didn’t want to go out and take pictures, but I pushed myself to venture out and really explore Louisville. It made me look at things in a new way and really discover the city.”

Beyond personal fulfillment, this labor of love has opened several doors for the young artist. She was awarded the Presidential Scholarship at Wake Forest University, where she will matriculate next month, for a selection of photos from the project. And when Paula Weyler, Revelry owner and Burruss’ cousin, saw her work, she knew she was onto something special. She approached Burruss about a show, a possibility the high school senior hadn’t even considered.

“This was absolutely not a favor,” Weyler emphasizes. “I looked at Cami’s work and I saw something really interesting and different, as well as affordable. At Revelry, our business is all about accessibility, and I think Cami’s art really captures that. The mixed media was a collaboration between her and me. She’d already been working with alternative printing, and we wanted to take it up a notch.”

At the exhibition’s opening reception, a slew of well-wishers flooded the gallery, snapping photos and enthusiastically congratulating Burruss. “I did this as an independent project, really just for myself,” she says, a bit overwhelmed by all the praise. She never imagined her pet project would touch so many people, as evidenced by the red dots popping up on card after card, her collection quickly snapped up by eager buyers. There may be another “Project 365” in her future one day, but for now she’s content to enjoy the moment. “I’m happy with the time period of this project,“ she explains.

As the caption of her last photo, a smiling self-portrait, reads, “Three Hundred Sixty Six days. Eight Thousand Seven Hundred Eighty Four hours. Five Hundred Twenty Seven Thousand Forty minutes. What did you do with your time? A lot can happen in a year.”

‘Cami Burruss, Project 365’
Through Aug. 14
Revelry Gallery and Boutique
980 Barret Ave.