WCMFA Cumberland Valley Photography Exhibition Illustrates Artistic Themes

'Girl in Grass' by Taylor Brown

Photographers often utilize their cameras to look inward; revealing a trace of their soul. At other times, these artists convey a wider-world interpretation, capturing framed scenes that materialize seemingly through mystic portals. This ‘mirror and window’ duality of the two-dimensional medium is one reason why photographs often inspire powerful emotions.

A new ‘Cumberland Valley Photography’ exhibition at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts (WCMFA) perfectly illustrates this window and mirror concept. This Hagerstown show opened on March 23rd and concludes June 2nd. The exhibit contains a unique collection of 40 images, created by 27 local artists. This display was curated by Anne Gridley and Gary Graves. The selection reflects the judges’ cultured sensibilities honed from years spent in the photographic field. “Photographs embody ideas,” the curators said. “Great ones draw us to them mysteriously as if absorbing our gaze.”

This exhibition also served as a friendly competition among the chosen local photographers, and when awards were announced another theme emerged. The top two winners’ close connection revealed a rewarding teacher/student relationship. Sometimes, a talented pupil rises to the expert level of their revered mentor. In this exhibition, Taylor Brown was that student photographer.

Brown is a 16-year-old sophomore at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. Kristen Green is Taylor’s teacher there. Taylor Brown’s ‘Girl in Grass’ was the grand-prize winner of the exhibition and Kristen Green’s ‘Looking Back’ finished second. Each image portrays a girl, caught in a mesmerizing moment.

When teacher Green first saw her student’s image, before the exhibition was curated, she knew Brown’s ‘Girl in Grass’ was special. “It’s a striking image that sticks with you,” Kristen said about Taylor’s photograph. The judges agreed.

Student Taylor Brown didn’t realize how special her image was until she received enthusiastic feedback from instructor Green. “I thought it was a good portrait,” Taylor said of her creation. The image resulted from an impromptu roadside photo-session with a classmate, the girl seen reclining in the grass. Reflecting on her prize-winning image, Brown said: “The texture in the grass and freckles on her face really stand out in black and white.” Taylor was inspired by famous depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange’s haunting work.

‘Looking Back’ by Kristen Green

Kristen Green’s runner-up image features her daughter, taken on a train trip in Lancaster. “Shea had never been in a train before. She was fascinated and curious. She was looking out the window, trying to see through the fog,” Green recognized that special fleeting moment and created a tender image.

When asked about her winning student’s potential, Green said: “Taylor is a hard worker, reflective, with a lot of talent. Her future is bright.” As a dedicated instructor and gifted photographer, that same opportunistic window should frame Green’s future as well. She had another lovely image selected for this show titled ‘Clippings’.

Green offers encouragement to other photography students and hobbyists: “keep making images and put your work out there.” Taylor Brown’s and Kristen Green’s beautiful images are a reminder that collaboration inspires both pupils and instructors.

The exhibition’s third place winner was Valerie Dyer of Frederick with her mysterious photograph ‘Into the Fog’. The Washington County Arts Council Award went to Skyla Heise of Hagerstown for her unique portrait titled ‘Gypsophila’. After the show concludes, a people’s choice award will be announced, voted by museum visitors. WCMFA’s ‘Cumberland Valley Artists’ exhibit will follow this photography show, running from June 15th through August 25th.

‘Into the Fog’ by Valerie Dyer

This yearly Cumberland Valley Photographer’s exhibition has a long tradition at WCMFA. “We’re proud of the museum’s commitment to artists within our region,” Executive Director Sarah Hall said. “Our Cumberland Valley exhibit has a 90-year history. We began showing photography as art in the early 1930’s, when that was quite progressive.”

‘Gypsophila’ by Skyla Heise

This wonderful exhibition honors that long-standing commitment by showcasing intriguing work from area photographers. Like a girl in the grass or a daughter on a train, it illustrates when artists peer through a symbolic window or gaze at an introspective mirror, exceptional moments are captured.

‘Clippings’ by Kristen Green
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