Fields of Inquiry: Photographs by Yola Monakhov Stockton

09/21/14– 12/28/14

Exhibition Opening Sunday, September 21 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. Member's Hour 2-3 p.m.


This exhibition will focus on two of Yola Monakhov Stockton's bodies of work: Empire Pictures of the Hudson and Field Guide to Bird Songs – exploring how life intercepts with nature. The artist's documentation of nature coincides with Alice Austen's owns obsessive work photographing The Narrows throughout her lifetime. Clear Comfort provides an ideal location to contemplate how their work, history and photography intersect. 
Monakhov Stockton’s series, Empire Pictures of the Hudson (2007-2013) features black-and-white photographs of the Hudson River, canals, and waterways of New York. The project treats the river landscape as a site for exploring the journey narrative, ecology, portraiture, metaphor, abstraction, and place itself as both figure and ground. Stockton states, “seen as social and contingent, the river acts as spectacle and force, marking time, experience, and fable.” The work results from the artist’s love of having grown up in New York City and Jersey City, and being captivated by the temporal quality of the city’s glowing surfaces, and the way the river draws borders and arrows around its terrain.
Field Guide to Bird Songs looks closely at living birds in the field through the materiality of color film and studio props. The detailed,  hyper–real photographs recall the decorative drawings of natural history – evoking the  delicate experience of holding a bird, against traditions of landscape representation in religious iconography, Renaissance frescoes and tapestries, and Modernist painting and sculpture. Through collaborations with scientists, ecologists, and naturalists on the Massachusetts coast, and at universities and research centers across the Northeast and in Costa Rica, the photographer gained access to wild birds captured for banding, before their release, and those captive in labs. Alongside photographs taken in orchards, gardens, and on wooded paths, the work cultivates a vocabulary of techniques that attend to the process of making, such as light leaks on film, objects acting as masks inside the camera, or evidence of equipment, paper backdrops, and cut–out shapes. The field becomes an improvised studio, a living picture plane.
The work derives from the photographer’s background as a documentary photographer in fields of conflict, where the deeply-felt experience of presence and witnessing sometimes clashed with the aesthetics of the resulting photographs, which were steeped in the exigencies of narrative. Here, in the constructed field of a pictorial space, the artist wished to make work in the field, in the place of the living objects depicted, but to do so as if in a studio, a place of making, control, and imagination.
Monakhov Stockton’s work deals with landscape and literature, the qualities of boundaries and constraints, data gathering, and the materiality of photography. Her work has been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally. Awards include a Meredith S. Moody fellowship from Yaddo, and a Fellowship from Greve in Chianti (FI)/ Macina di San Cresci. She has worked regularly for The New Yorker, and her work has appeared in Harper's, Esquire, TIME, Marie Claire, Newsweek, and The New York Times. She has worked on assignment in the Middle East, Central Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Iran. She is currently the Harnish Visiting Artist at Smith College and also on the faculty at Columbia University and the International Center of Photography. Her work is in the collection of the Smith College Museum of Art and numerous private collections. She was born in Moscow, Russia, and lives in Northampton, Massachusetts and New York City with her husband and son.
The show is curated by Natalie Matutschovsky, Senior Photo Editor at TIME.


Photo: "Ivory Gate, 2013",  Archival Pigment print, 16"x20"