The good news is that Easton’s Academy Art Museum is open again—pandemic be damned. Well, maybe that’s the best news after all. But it’s also good to know that the two new shows that were scheduled to open way back in April are well worth the wait.
As you enter through the new glass-box entrance facing the Harrison Street courtyard, you’ll encounter the first glimpses of the “New Photography II: National Juried Exhibition,” which engagingly occupies all the first-floor galleries of the museum.
Among the first images you’ll see if following the directional signage that encourages social distancing, is one you might mistake for a sculptural construction. But JoAnne Dumas’ “Copper Ripples #2” is actually a relief collage of pigment ink images on a series of wavy metallic strips resembling a tattered flag.
Others are far more conventionally photographic, but no less riveting. Jonathan Clark’s “Afternoon Tea” may seem as ordinary as its title suggests but for the apparently long-married couple captured in a moment of raging boredom with each other. Another medium comes to mind—Meatloaf’s recording of “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” culminating in the lyric “I’m praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you.”
More comically enigmatic is Jesse Egner’s untitled photo from the “Disidentification” series picturing a young man weaving a sock of yarn spooling from, perhaps, a parent’s head.
Photography takes a deconstruction turn in Academy Art Museum’s resident artist Antonio McAfee of Baltimore. In his show, “Legacy,” McAfee peels back the history of archival photographs from the late 19th century in a series of ovals evoking ghostly images. The process involves taking back a photograph to its negative-image beginnings from which prints are processed by the seemingly magical feat of chemistry on paper. Working forward from that origin, McAfee extracts black-and-whites that capture bits of a life past, along with subsequent degradation.
“It’s all about taking away and adding layers, like deconstructing an object,” McAfee said in an interview at an AAM studio. “I had an interest in this as a kid, taking apart stuff,” such as recording devices.
Remember to wear a mask. If you don’t have one, they will supply one at the desk just inside the new entry way.
Steve Parks is a retired arts critic and editor now living In Easton.
NEW PHOTOGRAPHY II: NATIONAL JURIED EXHIBITION
ANTONIO McAFEE: LEGACY
Through Oct. 7, Academy Art Museum, 106 South St. (Enter on Harrison Street courtyard, exit on South Street); 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-4pm. Sundays. Admission: $3, children aged 12 or younger free. 410-822-2787, academyartmuseum.org