Do the Priest in Different Voices
1st edition of 200 copies
From the artist:
My most profound childhood memory involves reading a family bible. The illustrations, mostly Renaissance and Baroque paintings, did not function as a mere visual embodiment of the text. Rather, the pictures communicated in a far more powerful language, evoking both comfort and trepidation.
The words of the book provided little interest, but the imagery moved me to contemplate the unseen. It is the pictures I remember – not the words. The imbalance remains when I consider the possibility of a personal faith. While I am ambivalent towards the old established narratives, the semblance of the mythical in the mundane enthralls. I identify this conflict in the every-day: objects and situations that are alternately ineffable, laughable, and at times terrifying.
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Book review by Charlotte Irwin |
At first it’s almost unnerving to look through the surreal, anchorless images that make up Maury Gortemiller's Do the Priest in Different Voices. As I seek to make those initial, immediate connections that a collection of images typically presents, I find myself disarmed by the lack of immediately discernible narrative.
Not only that but the photographs are careful and deliberate, making this unease more potent. Ice is stuffed into three hot dog rolls, roller skates filled with flowers lie on an armchair, a classical statue has yellow goop dripping from its head: Gortemiller's images stop you in your tracks, and demand that you ask 'why?'.
This seems all the stranger, as the title – Do the Priest in Different Voices – is rooted in narrative, evoking a child's demand during a bedtime story. But it is the mention of this religious ‘father’ that acts as the steer to what lies within.
Three lighters on the cistern of a toilet create an unconventional Holy Trinity and altar, cheese slices lie in a cross formation on cracked earth, sheets covering people in a car recall angels. The bizarre compositions take the religious imagery we recognize, and play with it, contrasting it with objects of vice and capitalism. Yet the simplicity of this play means that it has a childlike, questioning quality that speaks to the adult's inner doubt.
United by a surreal spirituality, these mundane objects manipulated into sometimes strange set ups are symbols of not only religion in America but of a particular scene, that of America's southern states. They are strange, but familiar, inviting the viewer in to the comfort of the known, and simultaneously asking them to imagine, question and spin the narrative on.
Broad in geography, and influence, the south is hard to define in one sentence – or image – and Gortemiller doesn't force the impossible, instead exploring the “different voices” of the place that inspired the collection. And in doing so Gortemiller reveals the cross over between mythology and the everyday, exploring rural life, growing up, and of course, religion and its storybook, the bible.
Despite being playful, I get the feeling that Gortemiller wishes to avoid slipping into irreverence. The clarity of the staging and simplicity of the images that feature just one or two objects, or sometimes nothing at all, creates a sense of respect. This isn’t some ill-conceived joke; Gortemiller wishes to open up the topic, and rather than confuse the viewer, these surreal images inspire.
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