Etherton Gallery's art exhibits offer cultural experience
Jordin O’Connor / Arizona Daily Wildcat
“The Bikeriders” by Danny Lyon is currently being featured at the Etherton in downtown Tucson.
This weekend Tucson’s art scene is focusing on the marginal groups, giving voices to the misunderstood, and creating art that satisfies that personal political fire.
Etherton Gallery has recently opened two black and white photography exhibits about the world of motorcycles: Danny Lyon: The Bikeriders at the main Etherton Gallery, September 8 thru October 27, and Ann Simmons-Myers: Bikers at The Temple Gallery from September 21 thru October 16.
Lyon broke traditional practices of documentary photography with his work, The Bikeriders, by going on the inside and joining the Chicago Outlaws motorcycle club in 1963. He traveled and lived with the club for four years, photographing the group on a personally connected level. Lyon had the advantage of being an insider, not just of the Chicago Outlaws, but also of the generation itself, allowing him to become fully immersed in the biker culture. This unconventional method of documentary photography, as Etherton Gallery employee Daphne Srinivasan explained, broke original expectations of objectivity and photographer-subject separation. The Bikeriders is a book that has been reprinted three times now, and is far more popular in our present day, as Srinivasan said, than it was when Lyon first published. The book includes pictures and interviews, bringing the bike riders into the book beyond just photographs, and giving readers their actual voices.
The freedom and spirit of Lyon’s Bikeriders is in a slightly overwhelming juxtaposition with the intensity the club members and their rebellion. Motorcycle clubs were a marginal group of society, unknown, and feared for their revolt against societal norms. Lyon’s photos capture an odd sense of youth and an I’ve-lived-life harshness simultaneously.
That’s a tangible feeling while observing Lyon’s art in the beautifully arranged gallery. The organization of the photos are such that you follow Lyon’s journey with the Outlaws, opening with a free feeling day-ride photo, and continuing with explorations of tense Outlaws member’s funerals, races and ending with an image of the group’s backs. It’s a completed end, a farewell to one’s visiting ride with the Outlaws.
“He’s one of the really great living photographers,” complimented Terry Etherton, owner and founder of EG. Etherton and Lyon have had a long-standing relationship, personally and on a business level. “[He] put my gallery on the map,” noted Etherton as he recalled one of his first exhibits featuring Lyon at EG, in 1982.
When asked about why the EG satellite gallery, Temple Gallery, also has a motorcycle themed exhibit by Ann Simmons-Myers, Etherton merely stated that he thought it would be great to have both collections up at the same time. Simmons-Myers work, while influenced by Lyon has an even more intimate relationship with the local Tucson motorcycle group she photographed in the early 1980’s. Srinivasan described the Pima College professor’s work as “very kind of frank, I think.”
Srinivasan noted that about 60% of Simmons-Myers exhibit at Temple is unseen, her work has “never been expanded as it is now,” furthered Etherton. Simmons-Myers work is friendly and close, much of it taking place in the biker’s homes. Ultimately, Simmons-Myers’ end achievement was the same as Lyon’s; they created a humanized world of those on the outskirts, on the social margins.
There is a phenomenal power behind art that allows ideas and important activism to take place. In respect to the revolutionary work of Danny Lyon, and the expoing art of Ann Simmons-Myers, the Tucson art community is telling the city’s members to act through their own art. A local event, Make Art (Political) is encouraging artists of every level, every age, every perspective and discipline to join together in “a day of creation around the presidential election.”
On Saturday, from 12-6 p.m., you can join other artists at the Sculpture Resource Center (640 N. Stone Ave.) in creating art centered on the current political events, tension, comedy etc.
Danny Lyon will be visiting the Etherton Gallery on Saturday, from 1-5 p.m. for a book signing. Books and art are available for purchase at that time. There will be a film screening of Lyon’s The Murderers at the Center for Creative Photography on October 5 at 6pm.