Turner holds a bachelor’s degree in photography and film production from Ithaca College. He earned his MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute, and was self-taught when he began exploring his craft in his sophomore year at Pomfret.
“The catalyst for most of my work is photography,” Turner said. As an artist, he specializes in 19th century printing processes, and his kallitype, cyanotype, platinum and gelatin silver prints feature prominently in the show, his first in three years. “Selected Work” reflects his interest in landscape, still life and portraiture, including historical photos, and marries photography with mixed media pieces and oil paintings – a medium that Turner only took up in 2015. Photographs from his series, “Heirloom,” were previously shown at galleries in Roxbury, Connecticut, and Katonah, New York, and are included in the permanent collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art.
Four pieces from “Heirloom” are featured in The Gunnery exhibit. The series was inspired by an antique postcard Turner found. It featured a photograph of a group of people. Over the head of one ghostly female figure, someone had written a single word: “Me.”
“For years I had this picture. It had never been mailed or written on,” Turner recalled. Then he found a second historical photo with an image of a woman, who resembled the first, and he linked the two, weaving additional images into a story based on a fictional character he named for his real-life great-grandmother, Hattie Taylor. On each of the photographs, the fictional Hattie Taylor writes something pertaining to a moment in history: the sinking of the Titanic, the second World War. All of these photographs and narrative pairings are part of her story, which is told in greater detail in a companion book also titled, “Heirloom.”
One piece from this series, titled “And Wife,” depicts a man and woman, labeled “Caldwell Titus and Wife.” The primary image is broken into six kallitype prints and below them is a handwritten note: “This photograph has been sitting on my desk for months. It is a good reminder of how far we have come when the headline in today’s paper reads, ‘Nineteenth Amendment Passes in the Senate.’ Yet I still wonder about her and why, with a simple notation, she was exiled into anonymity.”
Additional photographs in the exhibit were taken from a series Turner made at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, and a woman’s portrait from a 2002 mission trip to Bucharest, Romania, where the physicians he accompanied performed procedures to restore patients’ sight. His platinum prints of flowers – calla lilies, star magnolia, Queen Anne’s lace – are elegant in their simplicity. However, one of the most intriguing and personal pieces in the show comes from Turner’s 1997 series, “Technology and the Will to Live.” Created when he was in graduate school, the untitled multimedia piece captures the moment when Turner and his wife, Cindy, learned that their newborn son, who was diagnosed with total respiratory failure at birth, was not expected to survive. Then, by chance, they learned that the California hospital where he was born was close to another hospital that had an ECMO machine, which could support the baby’s heart and lung functions. At the time, the technology was not widely available. “Our pediatrician knew what was happening. The fact that he knew probably saved Graham’s life,” Turner reflected, noting that his son is now about to graduate from film school at Syracuse University. They also have a daughter who is a freshman at St. Andrew’s in Scotland.
The series inspired by that experience took Turner two years to produce and ultimately resulted in eight multimedia pieces. Mounted on stainless steel, a material typically associated with hospitals, the piece in the exhibit incorporates a photo representing his infant son’s chest X-ray, notes from a medical doctor and a letter Turner wrote to his son reflecting his own thoughts at the hospital.
Asked what he hoped his students would take away from the exhibit, Turner said: “From an artistic point of view, I wanted students to see that not everything is cut and dried, not everything is about taking a photo, putting it in a frame and putting it on the wall. There are other things you can do, other ways in which your work can be super personal. You can put it out there for people to judge or share or learn from and those are important things to do. Sometimes as an artist, you just need to express yourself. I knew that I had to do something with this experience and figure out how to relate it in a way that wouldn’t be too sentimental but somehow represented my experience.”
“Selected Work” will remain on view through the end of May. For more information or to register for the reception, please contact Jessica Baker, Associate Director of Alumni & Parent Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org