Patrice Aphrodite Helmar
This Nettle, Danger
Through April 26, 2021
Gaa Gallery Provincetown
Gaa Gallery Provincetown is pleased to present This Nettle, Danger, an exhibition of black and white photographs and a participatory installation by Patrice Aphrodite Helmar. Opening on November 27, 2020, This Nettle, Danger will be on view through April 26, 2021.
The purpose you undertake is dangerous. Why, that’s certain.
'Tis dangerous to take a cold, to sleep, to drink; but I tell
you, my lord fool, out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this
flower, safety. —Henry IV, Shakespeare
And Shakespeare said — and this is what I take to be the truth
about everybody’s life all of the time — “Out of this nettle,
danger, we pluck this flower, safety.” Art is here to prove, and
to help one bear, the fact that all safety is an illusion. In
this sense, all artists are divorced from and even necessarily
opposed to any system whatever. —James Baldwin, 1962
One can hear all that’s going on in the street. Which means
that from the street one can hear what’s going on in this
house. —Jean Genet
This Nettle, Danger ruminates on the complex and paradoxical mythology of American identity. Helmar’s portraits create a personal and tactile connection between sitter and viewer. Catalyzed by poetic considerations of the human gaze and experience, the images in This Nettle, Danger draw from an ongoing series of photographs made on location in Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and the artist's native Juneau, Alaska. In examining the ethos of American culture, Helmar’s recent work is centered on how rural America is portrayed and asks essential questions about the nature of photography in a post-documentary age.
Reflecting on the legacy of photographers such as Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Gary Winogrand, Helmar asks what would these photographs look like now, what would the photographic record look like if the production of these images had been made under different conditions? Rather than being on assignment, sponsored, or funded to document a particular place or community, Helmar's images are born from a necessity and personal will. Growing up on a fishing boat in rural America and in her experiences as a public school teacher, nanny, and bartender, Helmar sees her own life and the experiences of her family in places like the rodeo, and the circumstances of young people being recruited to serve in the army. In the people she photographs, Helmar seeks to illuminate the resilience and strength of individuals and working-class communities.
Accompanying Helmar's photographs is a participatory installation in the form of a gallery turned portrait studio. Visitors of the gallery are invited to sit for a socially distanced portrait. Images will be taken via an iPad and under the direction of Helmar via video chat. In spite of the difficult and direness of our current situation- the dearness and isolation that many of us are feeling, Helmar has staged an internet era homage to the department store portrait studio, and more importantly, an opportunity to reflect, engage, and connect.
Patrice Aphrodite Helmar (b. 1981, Juneau, Alaska) is a New York-based photographer and curator currently residing in Juneau, Alaska. Helmar has shown widely, including at the Jewish museum, Ortega Y Gasset Projects, Z-Ranch LA, Gaa Gallery, Houston Center of Photography, and the National Museum of Iceland. Helmar has taught at Columbia University, Rutgers, and was a public school teacher in Alaska. Helmar is currently faculty at Fordham University and a Visiting Professor at the Pratt Institute. She is the curator of the Marble Hill Camera Club, and the Backyard Biennial. Helmar was a nominee for the Rema Hort Mann and Henri-Cartier-Bresson Prize, and a recipient of a Rasmuson Foundation Fellowship and the PrattFaculty Fund. She earned her MAT in Secondary Education from the University of Alaska Southeast in 2013, and graduated from Columbia University in 2015 with an MFA in Visual Arts. Helmar has been a visiting artist and critic at Harvard University, Hamilton, Columbia University, SUNY New Paltz, University of Arkansas, Virginia Commonwealth University,Qatar, and other institutions. Helmar's work has been featured in Artforum, The New YorkReview of Books, Gayletter, The Reservoir Quarterly, The Boston Art Review, Art F City, VICE, and The Huffington Post.