Film about street life included in Akron Art Museum exhibit

Sam Twarek

Spectators at the Akron Art Museum experienced a different kind of visual aesthetic yesterday: film.

Streetwise, a film in relation with the current photography exhibition — Prized Images: The Knight Purchase Award for Photographic Media, featuring the works of Mary Ellen Mark — was shown to a group of about 30 people in the Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium.

The film, created by Mark’s husband, Martin Bell, was a documentary chronicling the lives of nine homeless adolescents in Seattle during the 1980s.

Mark has 30 gelatin silver prints on show in the gallery. The prints follow one particular homeless adolescent named Erin Blackwell, better known as “Tiny,” starting in 1983.

Mark’s work primarily focuses on documenting the unfamous, and she has been quoted saying, “I want to be a voice for the overlooked.”

The caption next to the photographs describes them as a “troubled child’s transition from adolescence to adulthood.”

“(Mark) originally worked for LIFE magazine and got the funding from the article and photographs to come back and shoot the video with her husband,” said Alison Caplan, associate educator at the Akron Museum of Art.

Tiny was able to be better characterized along with her homeless companions in film and brings Mark’s work to life.

The gallery featured every winner of the annual Knight Purchase Award since it started in 1991. Artists included Vito Acconci, Harry Callahan, Samuel Fosso, Robert Rauschenberg, Adam Fuss, Gilbert and George, Carrie Mae Weems and Mary Ellen Mark among others.

Rauschenberg has three large photogravure prints on display that mix photography and printmaking. His Soviet/American Array VII is a series of prints made in the United States merged together after his trips to Leningrad, Moscow, Tbilisi and Samarkand.

One of the more graphic works on display belongs to Richard Misrach. In his piece Dead Animals #156, a slew of animal corpses including cows and pigs are displayed in a large pile in a desert setting.

Still, the largest exhibit belongs to Mark.

“Her work is so attractive because she makes a connection with her subjects and always follows up with them,” Caplan said. “She just develops such a really close personal connection.”

Mark will make an appearance to speak and sign books at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium at the Akron Art Museum.

Tickets are $10 for non-members, $5 for members and students (with valid identification), and go on sale at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Contact College of Art and College of Architecture and Environmental Design reporter Sam Twarek at [email protected].