Hanging through June 30th
Projekte Gallery and Lounge
523 S. 3rd St.
Before I begin, a brief Italian lesson is required: “Chiaro” translates to clear, “oscuro” means obscure, and the two-combined—chiaroscuro—describes the arrangement of light and dark elements in a work of art. The term comes from the Renaissance period and was used to describe a technique of drawing on colored paper, and its contemporary meaning refers to extreme contrasts of light and shadows in paintings, photography and cinematography.
Chiaroscuro also happens to be the name of the new downtown exhibit at Projekte Gallery and Lounge. Owner Kraig Bienias and assistant director Starr Porter of Projekte put out a call for artists in April asking local photographers to submit works that represented the term. The result was a group exhibition showcasing photographs that utilize contrast to add depth and dimensionality to an image.
“We were brainstorming for the upcoming Projekte Film Festival and agreed that we would like to do a photography exhibit that coincided with it,” Porter says. “A local student filmmaker threw out the name ‘Chiaroscuro,’ and we all loved the name and the concept of shadow and light.”
The new exhibit kicked off at Projekte earlier in the month with an opening reception, complete with a wine tasting and live music. Eighteen local photographers were selected to hang their pieces. Ava Block, one of the featured artists, says she feels the show pushed many of the area’s photographers to submit something that incorporated natural beauty.
“Chiaroscuro is about telling a story with extreme light and shadow,” Block explains. “This particular way of visual storytelling is not easy or common in the photographic world.”
Block’s striking piece called “Prison” featured in the exhibit, portrays a vulnerable figure, drenched in shadows, silhouetted only by the cool blue light coming through the window.
“The model was going through a very difficult divorce at the time,” Block admits. “While I was changing my camera settings she received a phone call from her soon-to-be ex-husband. I don’t know what was said but her whole mood changed. I shot this as she was closing her flip phone; it was the last shot I was able to get that day before she broke down crying. Those last few seconds were very powerful and I feel this image expressed that deeply moving moment.”
Chiaroscuro ties in with Projekte’s upcoming first annual film festival, set to take place over four weeks in June. The first night of screenings happened on the 5th, but viewings will continue weekly on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., and admission to these is always free. There will be a panel of local art professionals to judge the competition, and the gallery will feature guest lecturers and speakers on screening dates who come to give advice and present their experiences working in Wilmington’s film community.
The festival began to take shape when Porter and Bienias decided it was time to put good use to Projekte’s 96-inch projection screen and old-timey popcorn machine. So they put out the call in the spring encouraging all aspiring filmmakers to submit their pieces. Porter says as a new establishment, they wanted to bring awareness to the space while supporting Wilmington’s artistic community.
“We thought it would be perfect to showcase some local student filmmakers,” Porter says, “as many students are in need of a platform to show their work for their portfolios.”
The winners will be announced on the 29th at the Gala Awards Ceremony which begins at 8 p.m. with free admission. Prizes include $100 in cash, Wrightsville Beach Sunset Cruise tickets for two, Wine Series wine tasting tickets for two, and other gift certificates and prizes from local businesses.
“We hope to have garnered enough interest over the next weeks to attract an engaged audience of passionate filmgoers and entertain them with an event full of music, film, merriment and prizes,” Porter says. “This is our first time out of the gate but we are hoping for great things.”
Chiaroscuro will hang in Projekte Gallery and Lounge through June 30th.