Like most organizations, Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus (JKC) Gallery has been fighting to stay active over the last pandemic-ridden year. With doors closed, it has been difficult to share artistic expression with the community. However, this month, the outlook has suddenly become much brighter as the JKC Gallery begins to open its first in-person photography exhibition in almost a year.
From March 1 to April 1, the JKC Gallery will feature “Resist Convenience,” a diverse photography exhibition showcasing the works of local photographer and artist Heather Palecek. An artist talk and Q&A session with Palecek will be held Today, Tuesday, March 9 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and will be open to the public. Limited seating is available in person. Guests may also participate via the Zoom conferencing platform. Reservations are required. For reservations visit JKCGallery.online
“We are thrilled that we are finally able to physically open our doors with this fantastic show from Heather Palecek,” said Michael Chovan-Dalton, Director of the JKC Gallery in an interview with MCCC’s publication department. “Heather has been an amazing partner with the JKC Gallery and has helped showcase many artists over the past year with the Third Thursdays Artist Talk program. It has been one year since we shut our doors and we are fortunate to have Heather’s work be the first work back on our walls.”
Palecek has been working with the gallery along side Habiyb Shu’Aib and Chovan-Dalton as a co-curator in a series called Third Thursday since December of 2019. The monthly series highlights two photographers and their work in an hour long session each month for locals to analyze, discuss and admire.
Third Thursday, which was once in person, hit a wall when COVID-19 spread across the world and caused campuses, like MCCC, to close down. “Since the gallery’s associated with the college [which shut down], the gallery itself closed,” said Palecek. “So we had a little bit of a hiatus.”
However, after some reinventing and team effort, the JKC Gallery was able to begin streaming Third Thursday again virtually by October of 2020. “We now have the hour long event on Zoom, and it’s really opened up our community a lot,” said Palecek. “Through doing it remotely, we’ve been able to invite artists and photographers from outside of our local community and show them how great Trenton really is; so that’s been really nice to kind of expand out into the broader world.”
Although Third Thursday has gained quite the successful reputation in the local art and photography community, the JKC Gallery still misses their in-person exhibits. That is why Director Chovan-Dalton has developed a way to emphasize the success of their online presence while also bringing back the long-awaited return of in-person art gallery exhibitions.
Palecek said, “Michael has put so much effort into finding ways to have the exhibition be not only in person, we have very limited amount of people that are allowed to attend in person, but he’s found two different ways to involve the community virtually.”
Just last week, the JKC Gallery finalized a virtual walkthrough app of the gallery. “It’s kind of like Google Street View, where you’re able to be in person and kind of walk down the road; you’re able to do that inside of the gallery and actually view the artwork on the walls,” said Palecek. “So, that is fantastic. It looks so good.”
Along with the walkthrough app, Palecek is looking forward to tonight’s in-person and virtual artist talk; especially being as that she can showcase her own photography in her passionate “Resist Convenience” exhibition where she, quite literally, “pictures” her beliefs on the way humanity cares for the environment.
“I kind of have this philosophy, where I think that convenience is kind of killing our humanity, and ultimately the Earth,” said Palecek. “I’m pretty passionate and have a spiritual relationship with Mother Nature, so this kind of idea that the more humans gravitate towards things that are convenient to them, the less empathetic they are, not only towards each other, but towards Earth itself; and the kind of theme of the show would be resisting convenience, thinking about the choices that you’re making and trying to be more empathetic to the Earth and to humanity, to people.”
In her exhibition, Palecek use pinhole photography, cyanotypes and lumen printing in non-traditional and experimental ways to showcase the damage convenience can have on a society, or the advantage slower processes can have in humanity.
One favorite portion of Palecek’s “Resist Convenience” exhibit is her fairly large community garden photography collection. These pinhole photographs were captured locally to Trenton.
“I worked with the gardeners at the Tucker Street Community Garden over the year 2020,” said Palecek. “I put pinhole cameras in the garden itself, to capture the growth of the vegetables and flowers that they planted through the summer months.”
She continued, “The pinhole cameras themselves created four month long exposures, where you can see the plants growing in the image.” Images from the community garden collection are framed on the JKC Gallery walls.
On the main wall of the “Resist Convenience” exhibition is 15 framed pinhole photographs called solar graphs. Solargraphy is the art of capturing Earths path around the sun, through streaks of light. These images, which Palecek is most well-known for, capture the sun and sky through extremely long exposures using handmade pinhole cameras.
“I love the process, the action, the adventure, of putting the pinhole cameras up, allowing them to expose for months or even years,” said Palecek. “Mother Nature effects what the image looks like. Rain will get inside of the camera over that year, or snow gets inside or it gets too hot. So you have that aspect going on for it.”
She continued, “Then a year later I have to go out with a compass and a map and try to find this pinhole camera that I put in the middle of the woods. So, I really love this adventure of creating the art itself.”
The variety of images showcased in Palecek’s “Resist Convenience” exhibition give-way to multiple conversations to be had about the idea of easy access within humanity. Palecek hopes her images inspire contemplation.
“I was really proud to see how I was able to exhibit so many different projects, and types of or mediums of artwork that I’ve been working with, but there’s still a cohesive theme amongst them all.”
Throughout the month of March, the community can visit the detailed “Resist Convenience” exhibit by making an appointment with the JKC Gallery. Tonight’s in-person exclusive artist talk is limited, but reservations can still be made. Palecek hopes tonight will pave the way for a new branch of ongoing artist talks and exhibits at the JKC Gallery.
She said, “I’m sure after we see how this all irons out on Tuesday, the gallery will just get better and better with future events.”