Answer the Call: Turning the Lens on Photographer Melanie Walker

Lauren Wolfer, Associate Curator of Special Collections & Archives

The National: Best Contemporary Photography is a hybrid invitational and juried exhibition, anchored by photography standouts Melanie Walker, Raymond Thompson Jr., Morgan Barrie, Jack Sharkey, Karen Klinedinst, Ian van Coller, and Jeanette May. The call for entry, now live, is turning the lens toward the photographers, looking for talented artists from across the country who are pushing the boundaries of the medium with adventurous techniques and original subject matter. In terms of aesthetic quality, technical innovation, and cultural relevance, contemporary photography has increasingly proven its dominance as a 21st century art form.

With submissions for juried entries now open, we wanted to introduce our invited artists! Leading up to the submission deadline, June 19th, 2022, we’ll turn the lens on these photographers. Next up: Melanie Walker!

Installation of photographs printed large scale on silk banners. The banners hang on either side of a concrete walking path.
Melanie Walker, American, b. 1949. The Fragile City. Photograph on silk, 2019-22. Image courtesy of the Artist.

I consider Walker to be my “veteran” of the invited artists, a practicing photographer for over 50 years. Her work ranges from photographs on paper to sculptures to installation work, my favorite being The Househead Chronicles series (see images at the end of the post). I’ve followed her work for several years now, and I’m always so excited to see what new work she creates because it will undoubtedly be different from the last. For The National, we will have one of Walker’s newest installations, The Fragile City, created in 2019-2022. The panels float in the space where guests will be able to immerse themselves. The house motif continues in this work, with each panel featuring a house-like shape within it. To Walker, the image of the house reflects family and, being a single woman at the time, the head of household, a role generally given to men. It also coincides with homelessness, climate refugees, war, violence, and other painful issues. She often returns to the series because these are universal issues that she feels the need to address.

Photographs printed on silk banners line a corridor while objects float on the printed photo.
Melanie Walker, American, b. 1949. The Fragile City. Photograph on silk, 2019-22. Image courtesy of the Artist.

Walker says of her process: “Daguerre’s 1822 diorama and a fascination for the pre-history of photography has been at the heart of my work. My practice is haptic and multi-sensory, being born visually impaired. I work with images on sheer fabric to emulate the double vision I experience with my visual challenges. In my photographic practice I have been driven by contemporary sensibilities as applied to historical photographic processes and hand-made prints along with new ways of presentation. My work is a collision between photography, installation, sculpture, textiles, puppets, and sometimes sound. Using the image of a house and that conceptual framework as metaphor, I seek to address our collective longing for connection in these challenging times of division and separation. I live between sight and blindness hoping to serve as a bridge to empathy and compassion. I seek the spaces between us.”

We are now accepting entries! Open through June 19th, 2022, submit your photo(s) now for the chance to have them displayed at the Museum alongside Melanie Walker’s work! Submit here: National Call for Entry Form. The National will be on display September 17th, 2022-January 8th, 2023.

To read Melanie Walker’s full interview with Michael Kirchoff:

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