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Indepth Arts News:

"Clara Gutsche: The Convent Series"
2000-04-15 until 2000-06-11
Center for Creative Photography
Tucson, AZ, USA United States of America

A rarely photographed world as seen though the eyes of accomplished Canadian photographer Clara Gutsche comes to American audiences this April. Clara Gutsche: The Convent Series, on view from April 15 through June 11, 2000 at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, is an unprecedented photographic study of the intimate spaces and the monastic life of cloistered nuns in Quebec. The exhibition was organized by the Musée d’art de Joliette in Quebec by director and curator France Gascon and is showing in only two U.S. cities, New York and Tucson.

Working inside convents throughout the province of Quebec, Gutsche allows viewers a rare and sensitive glimpse into these guarded religious communities. Approximately twenty-five convents, most of them cloistered, have opened their doors to the photographer and her camera during the last decade. Gutsche depicts a structured, female world devoted to prayer and contemplation. The artist’s examination of her subject is simultaneously distant and highly emphatic; the cumulative effect of her project is remarkable in its rich combination of revealed detail, emotional intensity, subtle humor and intimacy.

Rarely have we seen a camera approach a world so silent, and render images so evocative and full of meaning, writes Gascon. The instrument that crosses the threshold of these convents is just a camera. The vision behind it, however, is that of an artist motivated by a keen sense of history and the social relationships that fuel it.

Gutsche was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but has been living in Montreal for the past thirty years. She began photographing in and around her Canadian surroundings, developing an artistic practice rooted in the documentary tradition. Gutsche’s photographs expand reportage by investigating the visual environment and then the cultural constructs that give it form. She reflects her own emotional states, particularly in the representation of interiors, which for her are highly suggestive places.

The privacy, control, and isolation that interiors afford are many times magnified in the context of cloistered nuns, whose vows have led to a secluded life of simple domesticity and intense spirituality. Gutsche’s landmark record of convent life provides insight into a changing and disappearing world. Her photographs of nuns’ private spaces include parlours, offices, crypts, and their reading, laundry and prayer rooms. Other images show the women in their daily and ritualized life, playing badminton in the garden, singing in the choir, cross-country skiing, painting, in meditation, and posing for Gutsche.

Comprised of sixty-five photographs in color and black-and-white, this traveling exhibition was organized by the Musée d’art de Joliette in Quebec with financial support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Heritage Department, and the National Bank of Canada.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated bilingual (French/English) catalogue, published by the Musée d’art de Joliette. The eighty-five-page catalogue features ninety color and black-and-white photographs and is on sale at the Center for Creative Photography Museum Store.

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