By Lysa Legros
Professor emeritus Kenneth Kaplowitz has long been a mainstay of The College’s Art Department. During his 50-year tenure at the College, he has taught a plethora of classes including communications, film making, TV production, painting, photo history, performance art and photography. He has also accumulated a vast and varied portfolio of art ranging from photography to drawings, prints, digital art and poetry. The changes within his portfolio are as much a reflection of his growth as an artist as it is the development of photographic technology throughout his life.
“The Camera is Always with Me” exhibit, created in honor of Kaplowitz’s retirement, celebrates his art and relationship with the College. The exhibit opened Sept. 12 and will run until Oct. 17.
On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the department held “Ken Kaplowitz and Anita Allyn: In Conversation,” a virtual event that ushered in the new collection and provided greater insight into Professor Kaplowitz’s career and work. The event was a dialogue between Professor Ken Kaplowitz, Professor Allyn and the attendees of the event. There, participants learned about his work, creative process and creative philosophies.
Despite the differences in medium, one constant aspect of his work was that he defamiliarized mundane — and even disgusting — elements of modern life. His collection featured rusted dumpsters, reflections from the windows and sides of cars, fallen leaves — and even bird droppings.
“If I thought it was an interesting photograph, I would capture it,” Kaplowitz explained.
The surrealism of his photography did not come from any alterations of the subject, but from minor changes in post-production such as vignetting, and color correction. These changes allowed the audience to see the subject in a different way than they would have in daily life.
Additionally, the poetry which accompanied many of his pieces offered a different lens of understanding his work.
“Before the leaf blowers and tree trimmers arrive, I put on my boots tucking my pant legs and search for hidden treasure, but what I ultimately realize is that I am searching for my own inner demons — fears that haunt me and refuse to disappear,” Kaplowitz said.
In “My Camera is Always With Me,” Kaplowitz revealed the bizarre beauty of the ugly and unremarkable.
“Two themes run throughout his work — one thing is definitely play,” said Director Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. “He takes a playful approach to almost everything, whether it’s a leaf, rust spots or a detail on a plant. And then the second theme I think that comes out of all of his work and ties it all together is his constant creativity. He does always have a camera with him, he’s always looking and always trying to figure out how to make images that help other people see things differently too.”
Attendees of the art talk and exhibit gave their thoughts about the event.
“The exhibit broadened my horizons of what kind of art I really love,” said Megan Healey, a senior art history major and a gallery assistant for the event. “I really love his face collection over there. It’s definitely different from what I’m used to focusing on in classes, but it grabs my attention nonetheless.”
Healey described her favorite piece.
“I really like his c-flower. I’ve taken an Art of the Islamic period class and it kind of reminds me of their calligraphy,” she said. “There was a lot of artists who used the same makeup, and it grabs my attention. It keeps my eyes moving from place to place. It almost looks like you find words in it.”
An aspect of the event that Pezalla-Granlund liked was how naturally the conversation between Professor Kaplowitz and Professor Allyn flowed.
“The artist talk was structured as a conversation between Anita Allyn and Ken. And what I really liked about it is that Anita and Ken have worked together for many years and know each other and each other’s work very well — so I felt fortunate to see their back and forth. It was like a photographer talking to another photographer,” Pezalla-Granlund said.
Because “My Camera is Always with Me” is the first exhibit the Art Department has hosted since Spring of 2020, a lot of thought has been put into how the event was structured and presented.
“We wanted to break the gallery up into lots of smaller spaces,” Pezalla-Granlund said. “We knew that the exhibition was going to consist of many series of works — like the artificial intelligence series, the leaf series, and the planet series — and we wanted to be able to create separate rooms for those within the gallery.”
Pezalla-Granlund added: “His earliest black and white photography and collages are where you start out in the gallery, and as you walk up, media and time also changes. So, in the beginning it's all-traditional photography with the camera and darkroom and all of that, and by the time you get to the end, he’s making things that are almost entirely digital.”
Even though Professor Kaplowitz is retiring from teaching this year, “My Camera is Always with Me” illustrates how he is not retiring from art.
“He shows that you can keep making stuff forever. He has no intention to stop making things, he’s not interested in retiring and sitting around. He still keeps his camera with him every single day and I think that’s really inspiring and interesting,” Pezalla-Granlund said.