By: Nick Schleh, Staff Writer
With the new semester underway, the Woodbury Campus Center has put up a new photography exhibition by Smith Galtney entitled My Principal Ghost. The black and white film snapshots have replaced the Dyke Bar historical piece from the fall semester and will be one of two exhibitions pieces this spring. The campus center is free to enter, and the art is there for all to enjoy.
Galtney is a 47-year-old from New Orleans. He went to NYU and remained in the city for 20 years before he and his husband moved to Maine a decade ago. He says he’s “…a Southern boy at heart,” but Maine is his home now. Galtney is a visiting artist for the Art Department at USM. He helps critique the work of BFA students in their upcoming exhibitions. The gravity of Galtney’s work is centered around aging, marriage and addiction.
Galtney said regarding My Principal Ghost that, “The show is about the past and how it leaves its mark on the present.” Galtney said these photos were taken over the course of four years during his mid 40’s, and the photos represent echoes of his youth and a “more complicated adulthood.” Galtney said his project exhibits patience. “Most of the shooting I do is in the snapshot style – no setups, life as it happens, etc.” After four years of shooting, a framework of what he wanted appeared in his mind.
“The aim was to focus less on people and more on the traces they leave behind,” said Galtney. “The handprint on the bed, the headlights in the distance, a box of ashes of a friend who died, my dog in the last week she was alive. I take a lot of portraits, so keeping people out of the show entirely was hard to do, but they’re more like supporting players. The environment feels like the star here.”
Carolyn Eyler, the USM’s director of exhibitions and programs, chose to showcase Galtney’s work based on a recommendation by Portland photographer and gallerist Jocelyn Lee. The Art Department rotates the kind of artist that is showcased every semester with the goal of introducing art to the USM community, which Eyler thinks is a vital cultural offering for the campus center. Eyler said that the exhibition area is “a space simply to introduce students and general public to art, some of whom might never have stepped into a gallery.” She stated it is important for art to have a presence in academia and that Galtney “has beautifully distilled his experiences into these delicately textured black and white photographs, which in turn inspire our own experience when beholding them.”
Galtney’s other projects include the Frannie Peabody Center commissioned project SeeingME: Profiles of Resilience, a series of portraits documenting the individuals that represent the AIDS/HIV community in Maine. His project currently in the works is The Ballad of Domestic Tranquility, an autobiographical set of photos portraying gay marriage in the 21st century.
My Principal Ghost can be viewed in the Woodbury Campus Center outside of the bookstore. Galtney’s closing message for the USM community was to “Start taking pictures, keep taking pictures and then don’t stop taking pictures. You will create a document of your own life, and it will belong to you and not some cloud, and even the most awful-looking ones will soon feel precious.”