Target Gallery, the contemporary exhibition space for the Torpedo Factory Art Center, welcomes Detroit-based mixed-media artist Sarah Nesbitt for her first solo exhibition in the greater D.C. metropolitan area.
Nesbitt’s show arrives at a time where our society, the media, and government aim to establish a concrete line between fact and opinion, history and myth, evidence and conspiracy theory. She studies forgeries, censorship, the writing and re-writing of history, and positions art as essential to contextualizing and interpreting both our present and our past.
“A photograph is often perceived to be an objective arbiter of truth, but realistically, it’s just as open to manipulation as the process of recording history,” said Nesbitt. “Photography can alter our entire perception of reality via editing, interpretation, and desensitization. It can also construct hyper-reality and depict pseudo-events.”
To Nesbitt, history is a living, breathing investigation into who and what came before us. Using a variety of modern and antiquated printed and digital media—videos, installations, sculpture, augmented reality, and even wet-plate photography—Nesbitt disrupts her own work with stitching, dissecting, writing, and pinning. She lays it bare so that it can be seen for what it is. Photographs aren’t precious and complete, they’re vulnerable to disruptions from outside forces.
For her large-scale print, The Survival of Art, she lays out slides and notates them with art historical comments. For example, the slide labeled “Edward Curtis” reads, “Destroyed all of his glass negatives in 1919. Others claimed he misrepresented Native American people.”
In Our History of the Telephone, the audience sees a spread in an old book on the history of telephony. Using a custom application on a smart phone, the viewer holds the screen over the picture of the book and sees it changed and modified in real time.
“My aim is to create awareness to these shortcomings so we could continue to look at history not as static stories of previous lives, but our efforts to get closer to an accurate portrayal of our past,” she said.
Nesbitt was selected from more than 100 international applicants as part of the annual Open Exhibition solo show opportunity. The jurors for this exhibition were: Jeremy Flick, Sheldon Scott, and Marta Staudinger.
“Sarah explores the critical methods we use to record world history and understand our present,” said Flick. “She aims to reveal the shortcomings of how we read photographic images, what constitutes as accurate, and how we construct narratives of history. She offers a new focal point in which we should critically examine the role of photography in our understanding of history and the formation of our present stories.”
“As our understanding of truth, its consequences, and our acceptance thereof are challenged in new ways, we must become open to nuanced frameworks for future thinking and increased scrutiny of the historical record,” said Scott. “Sarah’s use of different media suggests a diversity of delivery systems that truth could be experienced through. Her disruption of surfaces brings a greater focus to our personal experiences in the process of truth.”
“Sarah’s interest in creating awareness of history shortcomings is a refreshing narrative that seems particularly appropriate in a time where we are so digitally connected to news, and yet somewhat removed from truth,” said Staudinger. “The amount of information input we receive is overwhelming and this exhibition brings to light not only that process, but the historiography of our interpretation of history over time.”
Sarah Nesbitt: Making Sense of What We Have runs Thursday, July 13, through Sunday, September 3, 2017. The public reception will be Second Thursday, July 13, 6 – 8 pm, with Nesbitt’s comments at 7 pm. The Target Gallery is open daily from 10 – 6 pm and until 9 pm on Thursdays.