The BankRI Galleries present:
BankRI Gallery, Turks Head Building : “Art in Transition – The Culture of Graffiti in Providence: Photographs by Linda Handel,” April 1 through April 31, 2015. For more information, contact www.bankri.com or call 456-5015, ext 1330.
MEET THE ARTIST – LINDA HANDEL
Photographer and psychologist Linda Handel grew up on a thousand-acre farm at the end of a long, dusty dirt road near Hightstown, New Jersey. She watched as her father cultivated the crops – potatoes, wheat, soy and rye – and she collected eggs from the chickens in the early morning. It was an isolated life for an only child, but she entertained herself, often playing a creative game of one-person Monopoly.
When she was 8 or 9 years old, her father gave her a Brownie camera and the two of them would go out into the fields to photograph. “It was wonderful,” Handel says. “I felt like I found my space when I got a camera.”
Her parents divorced when she was 14, and she and her mother moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey. The urban setting, so different from the isolation of the farm, gave her a new world of experiences to absorb. When it was time for college, her uncles, convinced they knew best, escorted her to Glassboro State College, a school primarily devoted to teaching. After graduation, Handel taught elementary school in inner city Philadelphia for three years.
It was the 50s, a time when civil rights and political activism was growing. Handel was unhappy as a teacher and energized by the political environment. She began to study psychology and cognitive behavioral therapy at Princeton and Temple University with the goal of becoming a psychologist. While in college, she had put the camera aside, but in the 60s a friend from Vietnam sent her a side view camera and soon, the camera again became an integral part of her life.
Handel’s photographs reflect her dual interest in man-made settings and the natural world. “I love taking pictures of pastoral settings,” Handel explains, “but I am also attracted to what is the inside of a city, what is its secret.”
She is now a (mostly) retired psychologist devoting all her time to photography. Essentially self-taught, Handel has acquired her knowledge from reading and looking. Her interest in printing photographs on metal began 5 years ago, when she started looking at mixed media artwork. She explored substrates and transfers buying metal sheets from Home Depot and transferring her photographs onto them, a DIY project that didn’t quite work out the way she hoped.
“They were small,” Handel explains. “I wanted something bigger.” Handel found Blazing Editions, a fine art printing service based in East Greenwich. She worked closely with staff there to achieve the results she hoped for. “When I picked up my first pieces, I cried,” Handel recalls.
The photographs themselves are images of a city in transition. Scenes of graffiti covered buildings, often mid demolition, convey an odd sense of power in decay. You are a voyeur watching history being dismantled. The building, the graffiti on the building, and the history of the building are vanishing before your eyes. And yet, this is a city, progressing into the future, building on top of the past. Handel’s photographs convey this sense of transition.
Other photographs focus on the graffiti itself. Handel has made friends with some of the graffiti artists, especially one in particular. The young man gets permission from building owners to write. Handel photographs his work.
“Curious defines me,” Handel says. “I’m curious about everything. I don’t get bored. There is always something to do and always something to photograph.”
The BankRI Galleries are curated by Paula Martiesian, a Providence-based artist and arts advocate.