Reflection is something that we experience in our daily lives, both literally and metaphorically. There is, of course, the actual act of witnessing something being reflected, like light off a mirror, a pool of water, a pane of glass and so on. There’s also the inward act of reflecting, like thinking about one’s decisions and actions, and how one has gotten to where they are today. Roost Gallery artist and boardmember Tom Nolan explored the many definitions of the word with his aptly titled photography exhibit, “Reflections.”
“I had been thinking about that concept for years, and have tagged a couple of photos every once in awhile,” Nolan said. “It’s got essentially three parts to it, because I think of reflection in three different ways.”
This included the actual act of objects being reflected, people reflecting inwardly and people reflecting on what they see.
Nolan has had an interest in photography since he was young, and continued to pursue photography upon joining the Air Force. In addition, according to the Roost’s website, “while [Nolan was] working as an adjunct and computer specialist for Empire State College, he tutored several students in basic photography.” Nolan is also a published author.
For selecting artwork for the exhibit, Nolan went through his vast collection of photographs to choose which would work best.
“The photos in there span at least three decades,” Nolan said. “The oldest of them being the picture of the buoy on the Rondout [Creek], ‘16.’ That photograph is probably 30 years old.”
The photos taking on this reflective quality also came during the selection process, and not during the process of actually taking the photo.
“The image just caught my eye, I didn’t look at it as, ‘oh, yeah, this should be part of Reflections. It was just that, the kind of day, the light… it all caught my eye. And so I took the picture,” Nolan said. “The fact that it is now part of ‘Reflections’ has to do with sifting through tens of thousands of photographs, and picking out the ones that are representative of what I was trying to get across.”
The open-ended nature of the content for the exhibit allowed for a very diverse selection of photographs. Some of them included shots of the natural world, such as an egret grabbing a bite to eat in “Egret at Dinner,” or a rock breaking just above the water in “Island in the Stream.” Other photos are more intimate, such as a close up shot of a call bell titled “Ring for Service” or a photo of a bottled candle in a dark room simply titled “Candle.”
Some of the more distinct selections were a series of photographs printed onto canvas that had been manipulated in some way. “Sunset off Starboard Bow,” for example, is a photo of the sunset from the bow of a ship, but it has been distorted to appear wavy, as if emulating the waves of the ocean. “Fire in the Sky” was another photo of a sunset, but this time through a treeline with the color contrast greatly exaggerated. The treeline turned into black smoke, and the sunset turned into the titular fire.
In addition to the artwork, there are also a series of statements placed around the gallery, all related to reflection. For example, one message above a series of photographs featuring people stated “People reflect, mostly in silence, on things heard, seen, believed. A preface perhaps to action.”
For Nolan, the statements around the gallery were placed there to lead the attendees to understand and “look at the context I was intending,” as well as giving them a springboard to form their own interpretations of the pieces. “If you see something different, go for it,” Nolan said.
Ultimately, Nolan hopes that his art sticks with people who visit the exhibit. “I hope they think about it after they leave,” Nolan said. “I have a good friend who’s also a writer and he sent a piece to the Los Angeles Times… and [their editor] sent a note back saying ‘I didn’t like this but I can’t get it out of my head so we’re gonna publish it.”
“I want pictures to kind of stay in people’s heads after they leave, talking about it,” Nolan said.
“Reflections” will continue to be hosted at Roost through the rest of September, and will conclude on Oct. 12. The next exhibit will be “Earth, Wind and Phasers” by Matt Maley. More information about upcoming events can be found at Roostcoop.org.