Artvoice feature by Manya Fabiniak

Photographer Irene Haupt has created for herself a unique position in the arts of this community.   As an artist she has won numerous awards for her work throughout the years, while as a career woman she has helped to document an aspect of the very culture of which she is an integral part.   Since 1976 she has worked for, or with, such notable institutions in Buffalo as the Irish Classical Theatre, Studio Arena Theater, the Kavinoky theatre, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Irene Haupt has also documented the contemporary music scene in Buffalo, most notably the June in Buffalo Festival of New Music at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1982-1987, and 2000 to the present.  Over the course of those years she has created a visual record of images of some of the most significant composers and performers of the last quarter century.  It is for this reason that Haupt was honored with an exhibition of her work at UB's Music Library as part of Gender Week 2004:  Women at Work. According to Associate Librarian John Bewley, "We wanted to honor Irene because I believe we are very lucky to have this documentation by her of over several hundred images of composers, performers, and local UB musicians." 

The exhibit displays photographs of these artists in both posed and un-posed shots, including those taken during lectures, rehearsals and concerts.   One senses the photographer's appreciative and warm approach as a number of subjects come forth with such a relaxed air, perfectly content to be who and where they are at that particular moment.  Looking up from his sheet music, the composer Virgil Thomson is pure charm in his polka dotted bow tie and checkered jacket.  "The images speak in a way that programs and paper documents don't", Bewley remarks.  "You look at this picture of Ralph Shapey and you catch his vivacity", and, pointing to another photo, "George Crumb is a sweet man, and he comes across as this.  You see how different they are; their personalities come through.  It's important for us to have these historical documents, and people just enjoy it!"

The composer and pianist Leo Smit is honored with several photos in the exhibit, each providing further insight into the man's humanity.  Yet Haupt understands the value of being more bold and direct.  Pauline Oliveros, known for her meditative theory of "Deep Listening", confronts the viewer with eyes of fierce and solid intensity as she plays her instrument.  Elsewhere composer Charles Wuorinen , with somewhat grave, narrowed eyes, pierces the veil between lens and photographer.

The camera, of course, can be quite unforgiving as it reveals every sign and nuance of age as time marks us.  This can certainly be seen in the semi profile photo of Lukas Foss, where rivers of deep, craggy lines rise up his cheeks to tighten and converge at the source of their expression.  Yet as Foss seems to be in mid sentence, Haupt captures an exuberance of spirit that flows effortlessly from this man's smile, transmuting his age to agelessness. 

Irene Haupt's personal response to her work speaks of and for a passion that is part of the core of Life.  "I love the energy of new music, the experience that composers provide when it's fresh off the press.  One can experience the first draft and next year the rewritten piece.  It allows the audience to become a part of the composer's creative process. "

" Felder's piece Boxman is very witty and clever," she continues, "and you witnessed the creative evolution of that piece because it was played with different people at different times.  It's just exciting to be a part of that.  To me it's about the joy of being alive, because I've had the experience of witnessing someone dying, to literally see the light go out in their eyes.  You come to appreciate the life energy.  I always look for that life energy, and that's why I can't understand how people can send their loved ones to war to die….that is so totally perverse to me."

Also included in the exhibit are selections of Haupt's work that highlight the breadth of her photography.  Viscaya Staircase presents a large composition of multiple layers built up to a luscious richness of gold, amber, and vermillion.  With each overlay of film the staircase slightly shifts as it sharply ascends up its narrow confines.  A deep cobalt blue seeps in on the corners, seemingly corroding, dissolving the scene into an eventual dark and endless void.  Within this multidimensional reality nothing is static or assumedly ever solid.

"None of my photos are one-dimensional flat surfaces" explains Haupt.  "There always is a 3dimensionality of looking through several layers.  Viscaya is not just about plain steps, but rather phantom layers of step overlays.  I am making an homage to the sinking city of Venice and the ephemerality of it all.  It's about decay and gradual loss, but it's also about my idea about climbing up through life and not knowing where it will end."

Four images from the Anima Anumbus series are intimate works that present a barely discernable ship floating in a blackened sea. A dark and blood red sun is the only light that illumines one vessel, exposing its fragility as it drifts under multiple layers of film.  Another is enveloped by an eerie amber glow as it rocks from the waves.  These works are evocative of small Turner landscapes yet hold the power and intensity of his large grand statements of ships caught in a storm, waiting for their inevitable annihilation.

Yet, with a sense of ironic wit Haupt reminds us that this is all play, for included in the exhibit are two tiny toy boats that served as the subject matter for these works.  One can almost hear the Buddhist monk giggling up in a tree saying "See, I told you…it was all an illusion!" As the artist explains: "You're in my boat and you're floating, but you don't know where you're going except that you're only in the present.  It's like a Buddhist sand Mandela that takes countless hours to create, when suddenly the wind shifts and it all blows away."

Irene Haupt sums up her philosophy with the understanding that "The most important thing is to be in the present, because if the wind comes and it's all gone, then that's ok.  It's the richness of the present, the embracing of the life force that lies in the richness of the present, that is what is truly important to me."

  For John Bewley, "This is really a treat for us to see Irene's other work.  It was unexpected to see this side of her; to see her abstract pictures is just great!  It rounds out who she is for us".

The exhibition continues in the Music Library in Baird Hall, on UB's Amherst Campus until Jan. 14, 2005


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Irene Haupt
Irene Haupt is the Official Photographer of A Musical Feast

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