By Paul Gessell
A time machine has not yet been invented. So, the next best thing is to view Maggie Knaus’s remarkable photographs on exhibition at Exposure Gallery.
The Ottawa photographer has been travelling around the United States much of her life, initially as a restless child in the back seat of her parents’ car, and later, as an adult, pointing a camera at all the quirky architecture and objects on America’s backroads that serve as ambassadors from another earlier, blissful era.
Knaus’s dreamy images of 1950s fast food restaurants, fin-backed 1960s cars, art deco gas stations, giant ferris wheels, and bumper cars are souvenirs of a much more innocent and safe time we will likely never see again.
The exhibition is titled Keep the Car Running: Road Trip Polaroids by Maggie Knaus. The show was curated by Patrick Gordon, whose framing operation on the outskirts of LeBreton Flats has become the best friend of many artists in the capital area and an exhibition venue of note itself.
The production of Knaus’s prints is complicated. Indeed, Knaus must have the patience of Job to complete the tasks involved. First she captures an image on a slide. (Remember slides and projectors and long sessions of watching your neighbours’ slide show on their most recent Caribbean vacation?) Knaus projects her slides onto Polaroid film. That film is peeled apart prematurely so the picture assumes a fuzzy, antique look. Then the Polaroid image is transferred onto watercolour paper and hand-coloured with pastels and pencils before being scanned, enlarged and turned into Giglee prints.
Enjoy Knaus’s prints while you can. The Polaroid film she used for these works is no longer manufactured. She hunted down some of the last remaining samples. So, it will become increasingly difficult to create another body of work like this. The film is disappearing even faster than the objects she photographed.
The recent vernissage of Knaus’s exhibition was well-attended and came on the same night as crowds gathered at two other nearby galleries, Cube and Orange, in the Wellington West area. Cube was the scene of an art talk by Barbara Gamble on the New York art scene. Gamble is a regular visitor to New York where she spends long days of gallery-hopping. This Ottawa artist is also one of the participants in a group show of flower-themed art at Cube. Gamble’s works are among the best in that show.
At Orange Gallery, near the Parkdale Market, a large crowd attended the vernissage of a exhibition titled 2011 Figureworks Juried Award Show.
Some energetic art-lovers tried attending all three events. People kept passing familiar faces on Wellington Street as they rushed from one event to another, sometimes still munching on some free food snatched from the last event attended. It wasn’t quite New York’s Chelsea art quarter but it was encouraging to see so many people venture out on a rainy evening to pay homage to Ottawa artists.
Keep the Car Running: Road Trip Polaroids by Maggie Knaus. Until Nov. 29. Exposure Gallery, 1255 Wellington St. W., www.exposuregallery.info