She’s Not There: New Photographs
Dane Carder Studio | September 7–30
WORDS Cat Acree
After Price Harrison has designed and built one of his serene, white-box buildings, there’s a real possibility that a tree could fall on it. Or the owners could sell, and it could waste away. Perhaps no art is more aware of its own decay than architecture. To cope with the immeasurable, Harrison takes to the street to photograph a world left to crumble.
“If you make a record or photograph, you always have the original, and it never changes,” says Harrison, who is best known for the sleek, flawless, asymmetrical balance of his buildings, as with Silver Space, his office/recording studio/personal gallery in Green Hills. (He’s also a guitarist; this is Nashville.) “Architecture’s not like that. From the minute you walk away, it’s starting to fall apart.”
And so Harrison prowls forgotten corners and overlooked alleyways. He’s been taking photos longer than he’s been an architect—first film, now digital—and much of his photography reflects his other work, with the same asymmetrical balance of light, color, and composition. But while the framing might be just right in these photographs, it’s the pervasive decay and the rare, disengaged human presence that urge a deeper look.
All of Harrison’s photographs have a surrealist edge, but the fourteen included in his first solo show, She’s Not There, are his strangest. From the bizarre, cinematic unreality of Country Club Fireworks to the missing heads of Cheerleaders, there’s something weird about these quotidian slices of life. The people—who are no more important than any other object in the frame—are oblivious, maybe even missing. This is where the show’s title comes from: Someone, at some point, built that building, made that airplane, hung that flag, or placed a chair in that specific spot. “Whoever was involved in making what you see is gone,” Harrison explains.
Consider the setting of Jerry Rigged, shot at Los Angeles’s Manhattan Beach. It’s a scene of a pink fence and blue-carpeted stairs in such a state of disrepair that, if you used them, “you’d die.” On the morning he captured the shot, a hazy mist diffused the light in such an unusually ephemeral way as to sever the moment from its own reality. If you went to those stairs today—which are probably still exactly the same—you wouldn’t recognize them. “It’s confusing to me,” Harrison says. “It doesn’t look the same as the day I was there. It’s kind of freaky.”
Closer to home, Springwater was shot when Harrison was in the namesake bar for a sound check, when fluorescent lights illuminated a scene of empty white chairs and mustard- and red-vinyl benches. “The actual room was very mundane and probably was an aggregate of years and years of just throwing stuff in there,” Harrison says. “We need another seat here!” It’s probably for the best that few see Nashville’s institutional Springwater bar when it’s well lit—but in Harrison’s photograph, it is vacant but not void, familiar but not recognizable.
As well as being Harrison’s first solo show, She’s Not There is also the first exhibition at the brand-new Dane Carder Studio. Before partnering with David Lusk to form David Lusk Gallery, Carder had a studio and gallery space in Fort Houston for almost seventeen years. Dane Carder Studio is of similar spirit to his old space, with a working studio as well as an exhibition space. He considered Harrison the ideal artist for the studio’s inaugural show.
“As fantastic an architect as he is—and photographer—not many people know about his photo work,” Carder says. “That’s one of the beautiful things about having a space and being able to open it up.”
A new space for photos of old spaces—sounds like some asymmetrical balance.
Price Harrison’s exhibit She’s Not There: New Photographs opens with a reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on September 7 at Dane Carder Studio, 438 Houston Street, #262, Nashville, and remains on view until October 30. For more information, please visit www.danecarder.com.