Friday, February 17, 2006

Travis Fullerton

Travis Fullerton, a recent graduate from VCU's MFA in Photography was included in last week's Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) auction at the Corcoran in DC. From what I understand the auction is a benefit for the WPA, an organization whose goal is to "promote excellence in contemporary art in the region by presenting experimental exhibitions and performances, stimulating dialogue between emerging and established artists, and involving artists in educational programs that benefit local residents." This being said, their annual auction (which has been going on for 25 years) showcases work chosen by curators who are solicited by the WPA and Corcoran staff. Kendall Buster, and Ashley Kistler of Richmond were chosen to select a group artists to be included in the February 11 silent auction.

By the looks of it, each curator was allowed to choose up to 12 artists whose work would be auctioned during the event. Importantly, the artists were guaranteed 50% of the sales from their work. Kendall Buster, an artist and sculpture professor at VCU (she had an awesome installation at Fusebox this past summer), chose the following artists: Fiona Ross; Carlton Newton; Suzanna Fields; Arthur Hash; Paula Crawford; Chip Richardson; Emily Hall; Ron Johnson; John Dickson; Richard Roth; Ledelle Moe; and Tim Devoe.

Ashley Kistler, the curator at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond, corralled the following: Tanja Softic; Jorge Benitez; Paul Ryan; Diego Sanchez; Sue Papa; Randy Toy; Travis Fullerton; Glen McClure; Jerry Spagnoli; Nancy Blum; Eleanor Rufty; and Myron Helfgott. All of the curators were asked to write a statement reflecting the ideas behind their choices. Ashley's is worth a read:

"...I have long been familiar with the accomplishments of most of these artists and have had the good fortune of collaborating with half of them on recent exhibition projects. With the exception of Blum and Spagnoli, who both live in New York City , everyone is based in, or not far from, Richmond . Collectively with certain selections by fellow curator Kendall Buster, their contributions reflect the vibrant artistic community that continues to grow and thrive in this region. I agreed to be part of the WPA/C's art auction because of the enhanced exposure it generates for participating artists something that each of these participants unquestionably deserves."

I think it would be ignorant, overly polite, and naive to not mention that Travis' image, Willoughby Bay, Norfolk, Virginia 2005, sold for $4,200- the highest price paid for work by any of the artists representing Richmond, as well as just $300 shy of an image sold by William Christenberry. Further, Travis' windfall comes at a time when there is a lot of press about the increasing prices that photographs at auctions are garnering. Last week, Edward Steichen's "The Pond-Moonlight," sold for $2,928,000 at Sotheby's, eclipsing the record set by Richard Prince back in November when his untitled appropriation of a Marlboro cigarette ad sold for $1,248,000. Blah blah blah... what does it all mean? First, it means that Travis is being rightfully acknowledged for damn good work (his work is undeniable as both image and object), and hopefully it means more opportunities and money for Travis and other photographers. And maybe, years down the road, this elevation of the photographic image will lead to a more visually literate population who seeks to understand (not just consume and hope it all turns out for the best), the potential, and the responsibility inherent in the exchange of images.

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