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Light Work's new exhibition is 'Unmarked'

February 26, 2010

Jessica Heckman
(315) 443-1300

The large-format landscape photographs in Stephen Chalmers’ “Unmarked” connect remembrance and the land by investigating the locations where serial killers abandoned the bodies of their victims. Photographing these places in a deliberately generic manner, Chalmers presents beautiful but ambiguous landscapes that seem to conflict with our knowledge that something terrible ended at these sites.

“Unmarked” will be on exhibition at Light Work March 22-May 29.  Light Work will host a gallery reception  from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, April 1 to celebrate this exhibition.

By inviting viewers to gaze directly on the sites of untimely and tragic deaths, Chalmers gives them courage to confront their fears about the end of life and its remembrance. The sites are referred to as dumpsites, a term made popular by law enforcement agents as well as television crime dramas. By acknowledging these dumpsites and the people who died there through his images, Chalmers lifts a stigma that unceremoniously draws a line of remembrance between those who died by intentional acts of violence and those who did not.

While Chalmers treads on sensitive ground as he explores and documents dumpsites in the Pacific Northwest and beyond, he hopes to exchange sensational headlines and the inevitable scandal tied to such sites with something more meaningful. Instead, he offers an elegant memorial that shifts the viewer’s gaze away from infamy and back to the humanity of the victims. Chalmers writes, “As a latecomer who has visited these sites months or years after the event and the associated media coverage, one is immediately struck by the absence of spectacle, the beauty of the sites, and their silence and stillness.”

Chalmers received his M.F.A. in cinema and photography from Southern Illinois University, and a B.A. in fine art photography and B.S. in psychology from the University of Louisville.  His work has been exhibited internationally, including at Sushi Center for Urban Art in San Diego, Calif.; Center for Photography at Woodstock in Woodstock, N.Y.; Shift Gallery in Seattle; and the Pingyao International Photography Festival in Pingyao, China, among many others. His work is featured in permanent collections at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; J. Paul Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles; and the Polaroid Collection in Waltham, Mass., among others. He has received numerous awards and grants, and was an artist-in-residence at Light Work in 2007.

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