Dumped in the river as trash, these bricks were rejected because they were the wrong color, imperfect, didn’t conform to the mold fully or were improperly cured. They couldn’t be used in newly constructed homes and buildings because they didn’t fit the established standard. Each is unique due to their original imperfection and smoothed over the years by the slow erosion of the river's tide that has gently and patiently washed their faces.
In my first local artist Share Worthy post, I am spotlighting the work of photographer and friend Steve Gentile. I met Steve through the Salon at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, which we have both been attending regularly for years. Steve has been a supporter of my work from the beginning and has played a huge role in encouraging me to take my work as far as I could. When we first met he had a gallery and gave me a spot in my first group show.
I am very pleased to share his Project, Orphan Bricks, which has been chosen by the Samuel Dorsky Museum in its entirety for their annual Hudson Valley Artist group show, Undercurrents: The River as Metaphor / Hudson Valley Artists 2017.
Those of us who have walked the banks of the Hudson are aware of the many sites where bricks were once manufactured (in Beacon it was Dennings Point Brick Works or DPBW) and where to this day outcast bricks, the discards, can be found in great profusion. The bricks were manufactured with the labor of Irish, Italian and German immigrants arriving at Ellis Island at the mouth of the mighty Hudson.
Steve's Italian heritage brings him even closer to the idea of the bricks as a metaphor for past and current immigrant struggles unfolding around the globe. His photographic style is direct and intuitive. The result is a set of images that, like family snapshots, matter of factly show us the orphan bricks where they have been left to wither into eternity, a perfect way to address the subject material and make the point.
The set of photographs has been gathered into a family photo album for presentation, driving home the idea of the bricks as surrogates testifying to the immigrant hands that shaped them.
The full portfolio of images can be viewed here and the artist's statement here.
The show opens Saturday, June 10th, with an artist reception from 5 to 7 PM. The work of all 41 artists in the show will be on display through July 30th.