In 2010, Professor of Art Marcella Hackbardt curated a photography exhibition for the Ohio Arts Council’s Riffe Gallery. Located in downtown Columbus, the gallery showcases the work of Ohio artists and the collections of Ohio museums and galleries. Called “Deep Space,” the exhibition featured contemporary fine art photographers whose images utilized varied, inventive constructions of space.
“Our experience with ‘Deep Space’ was so incredibly positive,” said Riffe Gallery Director Mary Gray. “We find that Riffe Gallery visitors really enjoy this particular medium.”
So when Gray decided last fall to host another photography exhibition at the gallery, she called Hackbardt.
The result of their second collaboration is called “Earthy Delights.” Hackbardt initially considered naming the show “Earthly Delights,” a phrase that, according to her curatorial statement, “almost always implies pursuing temptations, vanities or pleasures of physical existence to the exclusion of spiritual devotions.”
The less common “earthy,” however, better fit the concept she wished to explore, because it “suggests ‘of’ the earth, bound to the earth, resembling soil, as well as hearty and even uninhibited.”
“Earthy Delights,” which runs from August 4 through October 9 at the gallery, features the work of 15 contemporary Ohio photographers whose images, Hackbardt writes, “present earthy substances, resemblances, textures, places and experiences. While not landscapes per se, the emphasis is on dirt, sand and mud, or earth’s materials such as salt, rock and silver.”
While working on “Earthy Delights,” Hackbardt drove all over Ohio, from Cincinnati to Toledo, from Columbus to Cleveland, and everywhere in between, to meet with artists and tour their studios.
“Marcella knows photographers from around the state, which is essential for our exhibitions. She is well-connected. She's a gifted artist who is a gifted curator as well. [Those qualities] don't always go hand-in-hand,” Gray said.
“It was a time-consuming but deeply rewarding undertaking to bring my creative energies to making connections across works with their own unique themes, and bringing unexpected combinations of photographic work together," Hackbardt said.
When scouting talent, Hackbardt tapped her colleague and former student, Emily Joy Zeller ’08, a visiting assistant professor of studio art and a contemporary technology specialist at Kenyon.
Zeller said her photographs are a natural fit for the exhibition because they examine the inexorable processes of nature (birth, life, death, rebirth), as well as the idea of trying to connect with the natural world and better understand it in the same way a child would – up close and personal.
The exhibition features work from a range of artists, some of whom are new to Ohio, and others who have worked in the state for many years. “In each case, giving them the kind of exposure that they will have at the Riffe Gallery will be meaningful to their career,” Hackbardt said.“And showcasing their expressive, complex and perceptive photographs will provide a rich experience for all of the people who come to the gallery. The idea that I get to facilitate that in some way is the most wonderful feeling.”
The Riffe Gallery will host an opening reception for “Earthy Delights” Thursday, August 4, from 5-7 p.m., and a curator’s tour Friday, August 5, from noon to 1 p.m. For more information on the exhibition and related programming, visit oac.ohio.gov.