Redux's director, Cara Leepson, steers the arts organization in new directions 

Developing Image

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Mark Stetler

Cara Leepson, the executive director of Redux Contemporary Art Center, describes the upcoming develop > stop > fix exhibit, which will feature work by the studio's seven resident photographers, as the potential launching point for a new annual exhibition. Ideally, each year, Leepson will choose a medium, be it painting or sculpture or textile work, and have all of the resident artists who work in that medium create new art for the event. And all of them will be working with what she calls a "curatorial cue," a direction or theme she gives to the artists to center their work around.

For the photographers whose work will be part of develop > stop > fix, the cue was: What is photography?

"I really liked the idea," Leepson says. "Everyone's work is super different from each other's, and I thought that giving them this prompt would be a fun exercise. And we had people who really took that prompt and ran with it. Some are experimenting with different processing methods, some are using different kinds of cameras, some are using different kinds of film, and one of our photographers, Alice Keeney, is collaborating with one of our screen printers, Karen Ann Myers, who will actually be screen printing over the photographs."

As the exhibit is installed, Leepson says she wants to organize the photos so that they work aesthetically next to one another, but she's not viewing this as one unified exhibition.

"I'm looking at this as a group show in a certain sense, but not one that's going to really be reactive upon each other's work," she says. "I really want you to look at each individual's body of work as they're going to be displayed and get an understanding of the process that they each used per individual photographer, and then be able to move onward in a sort of narrative way and be able to explore all these different perceptions of how photography can be displayed and created."

Ideally, develop > stop > fix will take both the contributing artists and the viewers out of their traditional headspace and give them a new perspective on what the process of photography is.

"I want people to notice the different vantage points and the different tools that photographers use to help be able to make a unique body of work," she says. "It's not just snapping the photo; it's the composition of the image. It's the decision of how you're going to print it, or how many ways you can look at the same image and attain a new composition."

Leepson has been the Executive Director at Redux since December, and develop > stop > fix is just a small part of an ongoing effort she's been making to reconceive how the studio handles their exhibitions.

"I'm relatively new in my position, and one of the first things I did was analyze our exhibition program," she says. "And I felt as if it was disconnected. The exhibitions we showed didn't have any kind of streamlined structure. So, as I was thinking about the exhibitions that we put on, I thought it was really important that they align with our mission to show emerging artists from all over, not just from Charleston, but nationally and internationally. But at the same time, I wanted to give the resident artists an opportunity to show in our main exhibition space. So, this inaugural exhibition in conjunction with Piccolo Spoleto is the perfect way to keep it local. It's a really nice way to highlight what we have going on at Redux and the talent that we have within our walls."

That last point is an important one, because Leepson sees this new exhibit strategy as a way to promote not just Redux's resident artists, but the studio itself.

"I think develop > stop > fix is an example of the robust talent we have coming out of Redux," she says. "We're a contemporary art organization and we really encourage exploration by providing studio space and giving them that platform to create new ideas. We're much more than a place where you just come for a few hours and leave; the artists here are inspired by each other and our exhibitions and programs. I think much of this show is about the artists themselves, but it's also indicative of what Redux does for the community and the artists within it. I'm really excited to see the show develop and have it be something where the artists can challenge themselves in a new way."

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