Geoff Grace

Baltimore, MD | by May 2, 2011

A visit with Geoff Grace is all about find­ing things. Upon vis­it­ing his Bal­ti­more home, I began to find all sorts of inter­est­ing things in his envi­ron­ment: stacks of art­work that are wait­ing for a home, a tum­ble­weed atop an old school desk, art­work that is hung in the cor­ners of the rooms, an old brownie cam­era, a bird­house fash­ioned to resem­ble the brownie cam­era. I started to real­ize this expe­ri­ence of col­lec­tion and dis­cov­ery is reflected in the process of his work.

Edu­cated as a biol­o­gist, Geoff spent time find­ing things in nature. He searched for the expected ele­ments and rel­ished the sub­tle dif­fer­ences in crea­tures and plant life. His pho­tog­ra­phy is a process that gives slight vari­a­tions on the expected. Clas­sic cam­eras pro­vide sur­prises such as light leaks or dis­tor­tion on the film. When print­ing, he will often rub things onto the lens to print a unique ethe­real qual­ity to each image.

Over the years, he has built a large series of draw­ings of cir­cles. He repeats the cir­cu­lar shape over and over until he reaches the best cir­cle he can cre­ate with­out the aid of tools. These small, quick draw­ing also pro­vide a break from larger, more daunt­ing projects.

As with most artists, Geoff is always search­ing for space. In the depths of his base­ment, he cre­ated a small dark­room. Although this area allows him the lux­ury of a wet print­ing process, it restricts him from mak­ing large scale work. Often times, Goeff will make use of gallery space when prepar­ing for a show dur­ing the instal­la­tion period. This allows him to cre­ate the larger and bulkier pieces that his own stu­dio does not provide.

We left his stu­dio space and headed to School 33, where his work was on exhibit. The first thing you notice when you walk into the space is the ele­phant in the room. Lit­er­ally. Cre­ated out of papier-​​mâché and par­tially sup­ported by a forked branch crutch, the large ele­phant skele­ton is given an earthy color from the clay slip painted over its surface.

His inter­est in the nat­ural sci­ences is also reflected in his but­ter­fly col­lec­tion where he has cre­ated his own species and sub-​​species. Drawn, pho­tographed and printed, these spec­i­mens go through their own growth process before being pinned in an enclosed case – the same kind one would find in a nat­ural his­tory museum.

Other ele­ments of meta­mor­pho­sis are also on dis­play with his pic­tures of clouds, plants and, most impor­tantly, peo­ple. The fig­ures I see in his pho­tographs are his own high school stu­dents. He cap­tures their image in a blurry, non-​​specific way. At a time when they are under­go­ing their change, Geof­frey Grace doc­u­ments that moment but can­not define it.

Geoff Grace is the 2008 win­ner of the pres­ti­gious Sond­heim Prize.

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