Sterling Allen and Anna Krachey
Catalog essay by Alex Codlin:
Anna Krachey likes found objects and often includes them in her photographs. She enjoys the mystery of the objects and uses them as clues into the private life of their previous owners. Krachey found her collaborator for Making It Together much like she would find one of the objects that she features in her work. Each time she visited the office of her graduate advisor, she was drawn to a stark black and white drawing hanging on the wall. Krachey found out that the artist was Sterling Allen, a 2002 graduate from UT and a member of the artist collective behind the East Austin space Okay Mountain. She emailed Allen and asked whether he would be interested in collaborating. Not only did he say yes, but quite serendipitously, Allen also has a passion for found objects.
When her stepmother was about to throw away her father’s collection of eye glasses from the past forty years, Krachey intervened and took possession of the glasses. The collection not only chronicles past fashions and styles but also represents her dad’s identity through one of his most recognizable attributes. Instead of stashing the glasses in a shoebox and forgetting about them, Krachey wore a pair of these old glasses in a self-portrait. Printed in rich sepia tones to imitate the look of an old photo, the image becomes a reactive performance that merges Krachey’s identity with that of her father’s through the presence of his glasses.
Krachey recently went through the personal items of her deceased grandmother looking for mementos and found a faded photograph, a double print of the front of a 1950s home. To compliment this image of her friend’s house, Krachey’s grandmother had also hand drawn a map of the house’s interior with each room, door, and window carefully marked. Krachey paired the photo and the drawing together to provide insight not only into her grandmother’s attempt to chronicle her friend’s house but also to map the gap between the public space of the exterior and the private interior of the house into which the viewer can spy.
Krachey elaborates on her grandmother’s rendering of public versus privates spaces in her portrait series of different homeowners’ yards. In these lawnscapes, Krachey focuses her camera lens on the perimeters of people’s properties and on the disruption between the lovingly tended lawns and the neglected areas of land just beyond the property line. Her photographs reveal a liminal space in which people define themselves through the appearance of their personal property. Krachey took many of these images during the gray winter months, which only highlight the melancholic difference between the care given to the private spaces of the yards and the unkempt, adjacent public areas.
While Krachey’s found objects often come from family members or the lawns she encounters walking around her hometown, Allen collects photographs of strangers that he buys at estate and garage sales or those left behind by customers at the photo lab where he once worked. The images that he finds at estate sales are usually a chronicle of a person’s life and memories, and there is a certain sadness about the sale of these Kodak moments to a public who doesn’t know the person represented or the reason why they are suddenly up for sale. Allen once found multiple images of a man that captured different moments and events over the years and thus acted as a visual timeline of his life. He re-shot the photographs using similar poses, costumes, and backgrounds, and he inserted himself into the place of the mystery man with his family and friends as the supporting cast. Similar to Krachey wearing her dad’s glasses, Allen’s images reanimate the captured moments in this man’s life that would otherwise be discarded and forgotten.
Allen bases his drawings, like the one Krachey first saw, on found photographs, often times the rejected images left behind by customers at the photo lab. These are duds, the photos that are out of focus or capture the sitter in an unflattering pose. While these may be insignificant to the owner who abandoned them, Allen highlights through his drawing process the often bizarre nature of these images, especially to an outsider who can only guess at the context in which the original photo was taken. His drawings do not crop the original image; rather, they render it in simple black outlines for which the viewer has to fill in the blanks.
In one drawing, a man wearing glasses nervously peers out at the viewer from his bed as if he wants to pull the sheets up over his head. Who knows why this image was taken, but Allen’s drawing lends a sinister tone to the scene and implicates the viewer in potentially harming the man. Other drawings are so macabre that they become humorous such as the image of what the viewer presumes to be a mother and son portrait. The mom hugs her son who wears a ski mask and holds a rifle in his left arm with a handgun holstered to his waist. Despite the mom’s toothy grin, the assumed normalcy of the represented scene is unsettling to the viewer, especially one whose family outings don’t include heavy firearms. Such a drawing makes the viewer wonder what her life would look like through her own rejected images.
In a world where digital photography erases the potential for dud images and renders prints virtually obsolete, Krachey and Allen’s use of the found object and image celebrates the mundane aspects of everyday life to which most of us don’t pay attention or discard without thought. Their work in Making It Together forces the viewer to rethink her relationship with the objects around her and to ponder what clues she is leaving in the world for the artists to find.