The Brooklyn Arts District (BAD) is in the midst of a resurgence: Condos are rising, sauces are reducing, beer is flowing, and the arts are arting. These are the cornerstones of big cities’ hip districts, which is why the timing couldn’t be better to welcome artists from the NYC borough of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Wilmington’s northside borough, BAD. They’re coming to cast shadows across The Gallery at SALT Studio (805 N. 4th St.).
“Haunted” consists of a multi-layered photographic collaboration by WAX+VINE, made up of husband and wife creatives Scott Irvine and Kim Meinelt. They created the 24-photo collection exclusively for their SALT exhibit after receiving an invitation from the studio’s co-proprietor Kelly Starbuck—who also happens to be a a long-time friend of the couple.
Mirroring Irvine and Meinelt’s collective exhibition persona, “Haunted” blends soft and hard textures—like lead, cotton, concrete, leaves, bone, and feather—to produce a pressed and tangled amalgam of illusory scenes. Though not scary, the imagery captivates and completely avoids color. “I didn’t want ‘Haunted’ to have a negative feeling to it,” Irvine states. “It’s an interesting word, like an echo.” Irvine rejects terms like “darkness” that paint black-and-white photography in a bad light. “It’s about finding those weird moments in the mundane where something is really interesting that’s maybe overlooked,” he says.
Describing the duo is a lot like explaining the juxtaposition of yin and yang: Their presence is magnetic and surreptitiously affects the other. Irvine is reserved; he prefers to pull back from subjects and takes comfort in a wide field shot. Meinelt is the opposite; she’s outgoing and approaches people and photography through a macro lens. Their introverted-extroverted energies find harmony and create a balance in the relationship while amplifying personal style.
In high school Irvine cut his teeth on a 35mm camera, and began shooting old buildings and factories near his home. While attending Rochester Institute of Technology, he studied abroad for a year in Salzburg, Austria, which he credits toward his artistic development. “Before then, I really hadn’t been knowledgeable about art history,” he says. “Living and traveling throughout Europe helped me understand the history of both art and photography, which I believe helped to make me a better photographer in general.”
After graduating with a BFA in photography and sculpture, he moved to New York City, established a darkroom, and practiced the traditional silver-gelatin development process. The formula creates rich photographic texture and imposes a degree of deterioration. He used the techniques to create stunning portraits which fueled his freelance career. Incidentally, he received his biggest payoff when they caught Meinelt’s eye. “Everything is in color, and to me color is very distracting,” Meinelt explains. “The feeling of black and white draws you into sort of a different era. It feels calmer.”
A fan of Irvine’s work five years prior to meeting him, Meinelt owned one of his pieces. She took it down when he visited her for the first time.
After attending the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem for set design and scenic painting for two years, Meinelt began working as a freelance designer and painter in NYC. In 1993 she crossed paths with designer Eileen Fisher. After two years of designing window displays for Fisher, Meinelt joined full-time as the creative concept director, a title she still holds today.
Three months after they met, Irvine and Meinelt traveled to Southeast Asia, a trip foreshadowing their foray into collaborative photography; they only packed one camera. The creation process for their new show pays homage to their trip and places two opposing techniques together with as little resistance as possible.
Preparing for “Haunted” proved a visually taxing experience for the pair. “For every one that worked, there were a hundred that didn’t,” Irvine explains. Wanting the pieces to evolve organically, they spent two months sorting through existing photos, both digital and film, all from their travels, neighborhood and natural history museums. Hundreds of images were uploaded to the computer and fused by Photoshop until a unique combination surfaced.
“We really [tried] not to be too precious about it,” explained Meinelt. “It feels really important to me. I feel like it’s about having fun.” Meinelt, who is no stranger to serious design editing, spent a lot of solo time flipping through images for shapes and shadows and noting how artifacts related to each other in positive and negative spaces.
The result: a geologic layering of light, shadow, texture, and beauty that transforms two individual visions into one. “It’s a consistency of seeing things a certain way,” Irvine says. “It all starts to add up to be this one thing. So then it’s not just one photo; it’s a vision of images that become the show.”
In addition to “Haunted,” a portrait collection by Irvine is on display. Reminiscent of his roots, all of the portraits were developed in his darkroom and feature a discontinued sepia tone that he will one day re-create. The subjects range from friends and neighbors to artists and well-known musicians, like Interpol, Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls), Ian Astbury (The Cult), and Nick Zinner and Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
Work by WAX + VINE
Hanging through July 23rd
The Gallery at SALT Studio
805 N. 4th St. • 910-367-5720