Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Laura Storck, Curator

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Laura Storck, Curator

It all began as a fake Facebook challenge last Summer. Laura Storck posts a lot of photographs of mannequins on social media with the hashtag #philly_mannequins. Other photographers in Laura’s sphere of influence started posting their own Philly Mannequin pictures online. Then the bogus photo challenge started by asking people to post a mannequin photo a day and nominate other people to post their pictures, too. It was really fun and the meme cluttered my news feed with wonderful fantasy, irony and surrealist takes on mannequins. Instead of it being a joke the concept turned into an idea for an art show and Laura took it on. Navigating the art system with determination she looked forward and made it happen.

Mannequin, Laura Storck

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Da Vinci Art Alliance

Laura Storck contacted Da Vinci Art Alliance’s new Executive Director, Jarrod Markman, and secured the gallery space for the month of January 2016. Since Laura is a Philadelphia culture maven, including all of her photographer friends in one show was a challenge. Limiting entries to one or two images from thirty photographers was a democratic and easy method for her squad to glom onto. The meme is succinct, so, mathematically the odds of your best photographer friends entering bad pictures was low. The translation from concept to reality requires focus on details, action planning and execution of action items. Like the scientist she is, Laura experimented with the the elements of her community, actualizing her plan.

Mannequin, Rick Wright

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Da Vinci Art Alliance, Rick Wright Photography

Rick Wright has been a big influence on the Philadelphia photography community for more than a decade and Laura has studied with him extensively. The science of photography is deep and richly layered, Rick helps preserve century old technique with study, experimentation and teaching. Sharing what you know and helping others through their mistakes is a social practice that spreads knowledge and enriches the teacher.

Rick has been in my social sphere since 2008, he is an influencer across the arts and culture scene of Philadelphia. When you go to a photography show and you see that the print is the result of an exotic process like silver gelatin or something, if they’re a Philly photographer they probably learned something from Rick Wright.

Mannequin, A Group Photography Exhibition

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Da Vinci Art Alliance, Curated by Laura Storck

Laura Storck enlisted the President of Da Vinci Art Alliance, Rachel Citrino to install the Mannequin group photography exhibit. Rachel has mad skills. The installation was not jokey at all, even though the artwork was free to be opinionated, satiric and subversive. The presentation of the work displayed the artistry, voice and ideas that Philadelphia photographers have around the concept of what a mannequin means. Rachel’s eye for organization and mix of formal presentation and informal narrative created an authentic experience that truly excited the Philadelphia arts community.

Mannequin, David Swift

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Da Vinci Art AllianceDavid Swift

The social experiment really connected with the zeitgeist and news about the Mannequin photography show spread like a virus. The Philadelphia arts media eagerly shared the message like mitochondria in an organelle. The collaged image of Lauraquin Laura created with photographer Addison Geary was printed, posted, shared, and linked with the message of the event embedded like genes in a chromosome. Even DJ Robert Drake gave a shout out on WXPN, radio waves sending the message across space and time.

The opening night was a huge success drawing an overflow crowd to the historic townhouse gallery at 7th and Catherine Streets. Photographers converged to celebrate and the party went on late into the cold night. A mannequin lower torso stood sentry in the front window, the perfect butt signifying the event just as it was intended to be, irreverent and fun. Mannequin’s speak to us through shapes and hold our stare like bonobos, a deeply engrained group consciousness is encoded in our genomes to recognize and react, releasing emotion proteins. Anthropomorphism allows memes, models and mannequins to connect with our primal selves. After partying for hours the sweaty revelers wandered out into the cold streets filled with stories and new connections.

Mannequin, Dave Swift, DoN Brewer

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Da Vinci Art Alliance, Curated by Laura Storck, DoN Brewer and David Swift

The plan went beyond opening night, though. Volunteers gallery sat and midway through the show Laura planned a showing of the 1980’s classic movie Mannequin. I don’t know about you but I suck at AV. Ask me to use a PC and a projector and I panic. Watching the circus around setting up the projector and getting sound literally took five people with an actual clown, Linda May Hunter, coming to the rescue with a double male cable. By the time the movie was ready to go almost every chair was filled, when the Philly skyline appears at the beginning of this campy movie we all cheered. Except, Dave Swift. He hated it.

Mannequin, DoN Brewer

Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition, Da Vinci Art Alliance, Curated by Laura Storck, DoN Brewer, Sequence Gown, digital photograph, 2015, inkjet print

For me, the best part of participating in the show is that I didn’t have to do anything except make new art. Sequence Gown is a digital photograph captured on Fabric Row. Skewing the image slightly in Photoshop to line up the grate, I printed the image on glossy paper. The way the mannequins are doing a face-off like cells in a cartoon leads to multiple narratives like a Real Housewives episode. The title is from a RuPaul’s Drag Race episode where the queens argue over the pronunciation of the word sequins. Customizing the frame to echo the tone of the photograph felt very satisfying, I was free to make a beautiful object, be artisanal and expressive. Knowing that Laura Storck was large and in charge gave me the impetus to create new artwork understanding the finished pieces would be included in an exclusive group.

Rachel Citrino told me she hung the show without knowing who’s work was whose, I was proud to see my artwork paired with good friend David Swift on the wall near the window for two reasons. First, I find David Swift to be a great artist. Second, I could see my photograph from the street, my mannequins were selling it! Thank you to Laura Storck for magically making the Mannequin: A Group Photography Exhibition come to life.

Written and photographed by DoN Brewer 

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