STORY AND PHOTO BY JEFFREY PINEDA, OPINIONS/FEATURE EDITOR
Cypress College introduced three new photo gallery exhibits, displaying images captured by local, California rooted photographers as well as Cypress’ very own photography club; each providing an escape into the mind and leaving room for interpretation.
The photos captured by photographers Jeremy Harris, Norris Duckett III, and Cypress’ Photography Club adorned the walls that support the Tech-Ed building. Every exhibition was exquisitely captured, ensuring that their messages were retained in the finished product and could be understood and appreciated by visitors.
Jeremy Harris’ images from “American Asylums” follow the emptiness and the forgottenness of mental institutions; as the interior of the buildings rot and the nature outside begins to swallow it away. Harris’ images welcome viewers as they step into the Tech-Ed building and depict the beauty that tends to be missed in all the disorderly decay.
Following Harris’ work is Norris Duckett III. He introduces images of Krump, an African-American modern dance that encourages the freedom to express exaggerated, lively dance movements; that early dancers used as a means of escape from gang affiliations. Duckett captured the livelihood in these movements and the community that is held together through krumping, which the mass majority remain new to.
Towards the end of this exhibit, you’ll find the beginning of The Photography Club’s “No Newbs” exhibit that features a few of the best works from Cypress College students.
I had the pleasure of attending and viewing each exhibit myself. There I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the art that decorates the interiors of our campus’ buildings.
As previously mentioned, I was initially welcomed with Jeremy Harris’ photographs that depict the inside of old, abandoned mental institutions. Some of the images displayed illustrated the rotting wood and the paint that is slowly peeling away, crawling into itself. Wheelchairs, beds, and medical equipment showed clear signs of aging as the dust that sat on them clearly took time to pile up and the once shiny, medical metal that was once shined beneath the institution lights were now a deep burnt orange, kudos to the rust. The greenery that patients were locked away from was now growing from within and adding some life back into the institute. No matter how many buildings we build, nature will eventually overpower us all; if it weren’t for the size and structure, the greenery outside would have swallowed it whole by now, making it cease to have existed. The rooms were empty and almost completely forgotten about. We fear buildings or places like this, after all it is an asylum so there must’ve been several mentally unstable patients, right?
An image that stuck out to me depicted the medications patients were taking to treat their illnesses: Chlorpromazine Reserpine to treat the emotional need of love, Sparine to treat the emotional need of acceptance and recognition and Equanil, Ultra, Atorac, and Dociden to treat the emotional need of security, to name a few. Many of these emotional needs can be said about us. We long for unconditional love and acceptance, should we be taking these pills? Are we all insane for wanting something so human and natural or is it the person that considers these desires as “sick” the one with the issues? Many of us, similar to the abandoned institution, feel as if we’re decaying internally, and like the paint, we’re crawling in our own skin. We’re trying to escape from a situation that although can be demolished like the abandoned institute we chose top preserve; although there is no function or necessity for such a thing, there was once life, shelter, but also pain and misery that one can’t let go of. Harris’ work was very compelling and I often found myself getting lost in each room that I looked at.
As I made my way, I began to see a shift in emotion within myself. Seeing the sense of community in Krump culture photographed by Norris Duckett III almost made me feel left out from the dance. Dancers circled around and embracing the dance established familyhood that can’t be missed. The music in these images clearly hypnotized their movements, their arms were in the air, legs were in all different shapes and dancers were on the floor. This dance, in particular, exercises the freedom of movement and encourages partakers to be one with the rhythm as seen in Ducketts photography. This sense of togetherness and being there for one another is very prominent in cultures of color but can be notably seen in Black culture; after years of ongoing oppression and division, the community truly only found comfort and visibility amongst themselves. The unity in the images was real and authentic with many photographed embracing the dance and most importantly each other.
Towards the final exhibit, I found myself looking at all the outstanding work of Cypress College photographers and was amazed by the professionality and overall final outcome of their work. Each piece had its own identity and vision leaving plenty of room for interpretation. Photos ranged from portraits to landscapes to the inside of OCTA buses.
One piece that I often revisited was one by Ella Lizarraga. In her photo, a man sat, his back exposed and three arrows shot into his back, blood dripping down from one. The arrow reminded me of ones Cupid would typically shoot to send his victims into a love trance.
My interpretation for this image began to expand the longer I examined this piece. The man was in love at some point but was tragically stabbed in the back by the person who loved him. His facial expressions appeared down, he was betrayed and is tolerating it. Love can feel like the greatest drug in existance or it could feel like the worst comedown. The tape holding the arrows in his flesh indicate his effort in holding the relationship together even if it’s causing him pain. When will he let go of this, I asked myself. Why not pull the arrows out, tend to the wound and throw them away? The photos had a clear story that I enjoyed conveying and many of which I will continue to think of.
Every exhibit left a lasting impression on me and I would frequently replay these images in my mind throughout the day in an effort to decipher their secret meaning. Cypress art enthusiasts will enjoy looking at these pictures and, from what I’ve seen, will likely appreciate the effort and hard work that the photographers put into them. Even just a quick visit of the exhibitions is highly recommended as they are all very captivating and moving pieces.