SPU Art Gallery: An Interview with Photographer Kay Kenny

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By Jojenet Encarnacion, Class of 2019

As the art and music culture expands in Jersey City, newcomers and locals are seeing a growth of original artwork from artists displayed publicly.

Saint Peter’s University is showcasing its newest attraction in the 5th floor of Mac Mahon Student Center at its newFine Arts Gallery. Camera’s Vision: Archaeology|Architecture|Landscape exhibits the work of photographers: Michael Endy, Edward Fausty, Frank Gimpaya, Susan Evans Grove, Kay Kenny and Trix Rosen.

During a recent visit, while observing the artwork on the walls, not a single voice could be heard. The only sound were footsteps of students viewing the gallery.

There are a wide variety of photos. Frank Gimpaya, professor at Saint Peter’s University, had a display of photographs capturing architecture, along with interior and exterior designs, both in color and in grayscale.

Some photographs were more intricate than others. Simple photographs of outdoor statues and glowing signs from shops were taken by Michael Endy.

Susan Evans Grove captured the beauty of buildings and added an unusual twist by morphing the photographs, which can almost be mistaken for paintings, at first glance.

One wall that captured many exhibit goers’ attention was by Kay Kenny, a photography teacher at New York University and the International Center of Photography in New York City.

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Photos from Kay Kenny’s “Into the Night In the Middle of Nowhere” series captured stars, the night sky, glowing lights, and vivid colors.

“The night sky is a remarkable canvas: changing constantly and against the darker sky, colors & shapes, whether created through the use of flashlights, or available ambient light, become more intense: we often see, through the camera, a world invisible to our eyes. Time becomes compressed in the long exposures: the moon and the stars are caught in our planet’s dizzy spin around the sun,” said Kay Kenny.

Inspired by many artists, her technique differs from others in the gallery by including animals in the settings of her images.

Kay Kenny said, “I often saw these animals at night when I was out photographing in rural areas but they don’t pause for the photo, so I consulted taxidermists for coyotes, bears and foxes,” when asked about her skill of photographing animals. Sheep, horses and cows, however, stand still and they are light-colored.”

Her use of bright lights and long exposures are a significant part of what makes her night time photos stand out from others.

“In rural night photography, there is very little or no ambient light so I can use flash lights to paint the foreground. I have a variety of flashlights both tungsten and LED. For urban areas, I use some flashlight but must take into account the light sources and their color and intensity and balance that when I use a flashlight,” Kenny said.

Most of Kenny’s art seems to have a recurring theme. “Much of my work is about the environment. The night photos reference the light pollution problem in the world: a problem that makes it more and more difficult for people to actually see the night sky.”

Most people don’t buy art work anymore due to the cost and the overall advancement in technology, but Kenny says owning art is a different experience.

“A white-walled room with an iPad in my hand will not substitute. That is not to say that the art market isn’t venture capitalism at it’s most corrupt. An artist with money and good PR can achieve great recognition and sales with very little talent or concept, but there is still a large audience that buys art for the visual language and aesthetics of the work and often, ultimately, the pleasure it brings to their physical space.”

Kenny has been a photographer since the 1980’s. Cameras and other materials regarding photography have changed immensely, impacting the style of current photographers.

Kay Kenny states, “In some ways, I miss the visceral experience of working in the darkroom, and certainly the instant gratification of seeing one’s image on the camera screen is wonderful as well as less wasteful. The sad thing about digital is, however, the disappearance of memories. Most people don’t do more than record an image in their camera or phone. The memory that inspired that image taking is short term.”

Photographs from 2017’s Camera’s Vision: Archaeology|Architecture|Landscape exhibition are for sale and will be temporarily featured in the Fine Arts Gallery.

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