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Cleveland Museum of Art

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Around the Block with Brian Ulrich

A question that fascinates me is this - What is it about a photograph (or any piece of art, really) that makes it stick with you?  For any given artist, collector, or art lover, what qualities take an image to that next level for you? On the tour we started asking people who have a reputation in the photography field this question and recording their answers - sometimes while they were driving Lady Blue around the block.  Fred Bidwell was our guinea pig, and he rocked it (because he's just like that).

When I was in Richmond in June, I had an awesome studio visit with Brian Ulrich.  His brain is just on fire.  He agreed to drive Lady Blue around the block, and was even gracious enough to do it twice when I thought the audio may not have recorded on the first go-round.  

In this series we ask noted photographers, collectors, writers and curators this question: "What are the qualities that make an image really stick with you?" And we ask while they are driving Lady Blue around the block. (Or if the drive is not an option, we have an adorable miniature to be involved in her place.)

This "Around the Block" features photographer Brian Ulrich. Brian Ulrich was born 1971 in Northport, NY. His photographs portraying contemporary consumer culture reside in major museum collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography. Ulrich earned his MFA in photography at Columbia College Chicago and a BFA in photography at the University of Akron. He is an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Photography and Film department.

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Around the Block with Fred Bidwell

One of the highlights of the Cleveland stop - probably of the entire tour - was the morning spent with Fred Bidwell at Transformer Station.  Fred and his wife Laura (who regrettably I did not meet but hope to in the very near future) are contemporary photography collectors who have taken their love of photography, philanthropy, and their community to a whole new level. In February, Transformer Station - the renovated transformer substation in the Ohio City section of Cleveland, created to house and exhibit the Bidwells collection as well as exhibits by the Cleveland Museum of Art - opened to the public.  The Bidwells created Transformer Station as a public-private venture to work closely with the Museum to "serve as a laboratory, think tank and place for the Museum to uncover new opportunities, take risks and explore new ideas and new media."  Love, love.  LOVE!  The whole facility will be turned over to the museum in time, along with half of the collection (the other half to go to the Akron Museum of Art).

It was an honor to meet Fred in Cleveland and get a tour of the Todd Hido exhibition, Excerpts from Silver Meadows.  The work was completed, in part, thanks to the patronage of the Bidwells, and to be able to see the photographs executed and displayed entirely as the artist envisioned them was a real treat.  They are hung salon style and often erratically - chronological but only in as much as this conceptual body of work has a timeline.  There is a giant, luscious book that accompanies the show (published by Nazreali Press), that is well worth the shelf space.  Another fascinating highlight was seeing the room they had Todd curate from the Bidwells collection.

Fred was lovely enough to let me pepper him with questions - Why did they start collecting? (when they got married, to have things on their walls, and took off from there) What type of work does he collect? (contemporary photography, mostly emerging and mid-career, mostly color) What excites him the most? (helping artists create work, among other things).  He is a lovely person and an inspirational, force of nature.

And a sport.  Because he agreed to be the guinea pig for our new "Around the Block" video series, where we ask noted photographers, collectors, writers and curators this question: "What are the qualities that make an image really stick with you?"  And we ask while they are driving Lady Blue around the block.  Here's Fred, deftly driving and answering at the same time:

In this series we ask noted photographers, collectors, writers and curators this question: "What are the qualities that make an image really stick with you?" And we ask while they are driving Lady Blue around the block. (Or if the drive is not an option, we have an adorable miniature to be involved in her place.)

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