As a curator, Dan Cameron likes work that is “bursting at the seams,” as he once told an interviewer.
His own artwork might seem a bit more restrained. Nevertheless, some of the pieces now on display in “Pictures within Pictures” at the Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery can barely be contained within the confines of their frames.
In part, that’s a result of the medium: collages composed of apparently random, but, in all likelihood, esoterically related images, which in theory, could expand, exponentially, into infinity.
You could also attribute that extravagance to the bottomless wealth of Cameron’s visual experience, the storehouse from which these images emerge.
He calls them “a curator’s collages,” explaining, “the collages function as a way of placing images and fragments within a context where they stand a better chance of being preserved in the future, albeit not as themselves but as part of the pictorial composition of a ‘new’ object.”
Every artist is in some sense a curator, recollecting the history of art in every gesture, and every curator is, at least to some extent, a creator.
“Being a curator is creative,” Cameron concedes. “To see in your head every conceivable artistic intervention within a given architectural space, you have to use your imagination.”
Nevertheless, working with artists, galleries and museums is entirely different from “being by yourself, arranging things, making creative decisions that require you to trust your instincts, to go by something that’s largely a hunch,” he said.
The story of how these images found their way into these frames and now on to these walls in Lake George Village is no doubt as picaresque a tale as one that might, possibly, explain how one of the country’s most prominent curators and critics of contemporary art could be found, one beautiful morning last week, at work in a former law library in a 19th century building in downtown Glens Falls.
“I was looking for a library and I was willing to look pretty much anywhere,” said the New York City-based Cameron.
But, it just so happens, Cameron grew up in Hudson Falls, and so took advantage of the surplus space available in upstate New York to spend time with his mother who was, he says, in failing health.
“That was meant to last for a couple years. My mother died in 201l, and I’ve kept space here in Glens Falls. I had storage units in California, in New Orleans, in Kansas City, in Manhattan. I decided that was ridiculous; it was not only expensive and impractical, I kept leaving things I needed in these various places,” he said.
A centralized workspace not only gave him ready access to his professional, curatorial archives (which document the past forty years of the art world so authoritatively that they are ultimately bound for the Smithsonian), but also to the collections that ultimately provided the raw materials for his collages.
“I’m one of these people who, wherever they go, will wander into auctions, junk stores, consignment shops and flea markets and come home with weird stuff, most of which is incomprehensible on some level, but which appeal to me. So while I’m archiving art-related material in a serious way, I’m creating a parallel archive of thousands of old postcards. Perhaps ‘archiving’ isn’t the right word. I was collecting and accumulating things to which I don’t ascribe any particular historical, artistic or cultural value, but which I’m reluctant to throw away because there’s something about them that’s reaching out to me,” said Cameron.
In a way, it’s appropriate that Cameron’s first one-man show is taking place in the area where he discovered his vocation: visiting The Hyde, first learning about David Smith as a resident of nearby Bolton Landing and volunteering at the Lake George Arts Project as a high school student.
At the suggestion of one of his oldest friends, former World Awareness Childrens Museum director June Waters, Cameron contacted Courthouse gallery director Laura Von Rosk, whose work as a painter he knew, having selected her for a Mohawk-Hudson Regional exhibition he curated several years ago.
“I think it’s wonderful that Dan is showing his own work for the first time in the place where he curated his very first exhibition,” said Von Rosk.
“Pictures within Pictures: Collages by Dan Cameron,” will be on view through June 26.
Dan Cameron (b. 1956) graduated from Hudson Falls High School in 1974 and earned his BA from Bennington College in 1979. As a curator, he has organized exhibitions throughout the US, South America and Europe and has held senior curatorial positions at the New Museum, the Orange County Museum of Art, and the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, where he founded the Prospect New Orleans triennial. He is the author of hundreds of essays and articles on contemporary art and has taught at the graduate MFA faculties of Columbia University, NYU and School of Visual Arts, among others. His most recent book, published in June, is a monograph on the paintings of Nicole Eisenman. The Courthouse Gallery is located in the Old County Courthouse at the corner of Canada and Lower Amherst Streets, Lake George, NY. Hours during exhibitions are Wednesday through Friday 12 to 5 pm, Saturday 12 – 4 pm, and at other times by appointment. For information, call 518-668-2616.