The widow of the late American photographer Harry Callahan has passed away aged 95. Eleanor was Callahan’s model and muse for over 50 years, and he photographed her hundreds of times in an array of sensual, highly formalised portraits. Recalling the photographic relationship between Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe and, closer to home, Peter Peryer’s studies of his then-wife, Erika Parkinson, the Callahans were involved in a prolonged and deeply intimate artistic collaboration.
Serving as both a symbol of womanhood and formal component of his compositions, Callahan captured his wife’s shapely (and often nude) figure draped across beds, submerged in water, and perhaps most memorably propped up against a radiator. “He just liked to take the pictures of me,” she said in a 2008 interview. “In every pose. Rain or shine. And whatever I was doing. If I was doing the dishes or if I was half asleep. And he knew that I never, never said no. I was always there for him. Because I knew that Harry would only do the right thing.”
A Clean concert is a funny place to start meditating upon the art historical influence of Cass (a small settlement in the South Island of New Zealand immortalised by the Rita Angus painting of the same name). Yet artwork by The Clean’s Robert Scott at the gig’s merch desk included a charming little painting of a shed in Owhiro that recalled the New Zealand classic. Scott isn’t the first Kiwi artist to revisit the scene. Julian Daspher, Peter Peryer and Dane Mitchell have all had a go too.
For those of you that missed it, here’s footage of Peter Peryer’s recent talk at Hamish McKay Gallery in Wellington.
Peter Peryer is delivering a floor talk at Hamish McKay Gallery, 39 Ghuznee Street, Wellington, this Saturday at 2pm. The event coincides with Peryer’s current exhibition that runs until November 6.
Portraiture was the cornerstone of New Zealand photographer Peter Peryer‘s career. His early work consisted of exquisitely moody photographs (often shot with a cheap toy camera) featuring friends and acquaintances including art historian Michael Dunn, painter Dean Buchanan and writer Donna Yuzwalk (above). Like his American counterparts Harry Callahan and Emmett Gowin, Peryer also created a significant body of work featuring his wife as subject.
By the early 1980s however, Peryer appeared to have lost interest in the genre, turning his attention to highly formalised examinations of objects. Despite this, in his desire to comprehend the very essence of things, elements of portraiture remained apparent within the artist’s oeuvre. In ‘Fork and Spoon’ (above), a set of salad servers are presented in close-up, American Gothic-style. The artist has also created numerous portraits of animals, like ‘Sea Elephant’ (below), with his comical expression off-set by exquisite rolling folds of neck.
But Peryer rarely photographs human subjects these days, which is why his forthcoming exhibition at McNamara Gallery, Whanganui, is so exciting. The show will focus on portraits alone, some of which have never been seen before. The interplay between his early ‘psycho-dramas’ and more recent, pared back studies will be fascinating.
Petert Peryer’s exhibition opens at McNamara Gallery, 190 Wicksteed Street, Whanganui, on Friday October 1.