Since life’s major goodbyes are rarely easy, it’s wonderful when you can feel the love. Mary Burks definitely felt it as she walked out the door of the Paul Paletti Gallery for the last time after her two years as the assistant gallery manager. She left the gallery and its viewers with a parting gift, a terrific photography exhibition she titled “Lull.”
“In her years working at the gallery, Mary’s connoisseurship of photography has grown more sophisticated and more personal,” says gallery owner Paul Paletti. “Her selections for this exhibit reflect these elements and a tranquil embodiment of her unique voice, vision and feelings. This is a beautiful example of how one individual can gather diverse artworks together which express not only the photographers’ artistry, but the curator’s personality as well.”
Burks gleaned the photographs from Paletti’s private collection, focusing on her favorites, with a few that he had not displayed until now. The exhibition features the historically famous and noteworthy, like Edward Steichen, and the locally talented, such as Mitch Eckert, her former teacher at U of L’s Hite Art Institute.
“’Lull’ is a place of tranquility through moments of quiet respite captured with a camera,” Burks states. “Photographs of moonlit beaches, narrow and empty roads and wind caught in fields of wheat exemplify photography’s ability to commemorate hushed breaths of day.”
The exhibition features 27 photographs displayed on the walls of the small gallery. It fronts a law office (Paletti is an unusual person – equal parts lawyer, photographic historian, artist and gallerist); there are a few photographs in the show that are past the glass doors into the law office proper.
The Flatiron is one of the most spectacular pieces of architecture in New York City. It was named for the vintage domestic equipment it resembles and the triangle plot of land it stands on. Steichen’s version, “The Flatiron,” shows this ironic building on a rainy day in 1904. Silhouettes of drivers in black carriages line up diagonally under bare tree limbs. And behind this rises the Flatiron, cutting through the dark and still sky.
Solitude is also present in Bill Schwab’s “Pier Run Cross Village,” “Round House & Moon” by Ron Seymour and Jim Leisy’s “Pulgas Water Temple.” These photographs ask more questions that they answer. All have echoes from a past time. They draw viewers to them because of their mysterious shapes and the speculative reasons for their existence. And the quiet, always quiet.
Eckert’s “Ruby’s Diner, Newport Beach, CA” is an exception — it is not owned by Paletti. This work is personal to Burks, as she owns it. Eckert shot the diner interior through the window glass, complete with reflections from the exterior. Because of the placement of the photograph near the front of the gallery, there are also reflections from Market St. on it, including a parking meter. All this adds to the photograph’s still-for-the-moment humanity.
Goodbye, Mary Burks. May the art always be with you.