The Zarrow Center’s new gallery features triptych shots of famous and influential artists, combined with anecdotes from the photographer.
“Trendsetters in Triptych” is showcased at the Zarrow Center on MLK Jr and Brady. It is in the “Gallery Prep” room in the back corner of the first floor. I had difficulty finding it myself. A few of the pieces spill out of the room on the walls outside of the room. These feature familiar celebrities like Michael Jackson, Misty Copeland and Aretha Franklin. As you wander inside, the exhibit dips deeper into history.
The exhibit features 16 triptych pieces of artist, musicians and actors from the Jazz Age to WWII to our modern era. If you’re like me, you don’t know what the hell “triptych” means and were probably thinking about googling it. I learned from the exhibit that “triptych” is three panel art typically placed side by side. Most of the photos were in black-and-white which made the few in color beam with life. Each frame has one to three small blurbs written by the photographer themselves. The viewer gets to see the greats featured throughout history. Some of the photos are more intimate, taken in a home or apartment, reminding us these celebrities are normal beings behind closed doors. Others are intimate because they capture the moment where a person is alive and in their element. This is where their purpose lies and why they will be remembered for centuries. These photographers captured personal moments of these artists, musicians, dancers and actors doing what they love with purpose and passion.
This was by far one of the best art exhibits I’ve been to. It shines a light on not only these trendsetters’ lives but also the emotions in their experience with the extraordinary. Connecting the photographers’ thoughts with what they decided to illustrate bridges this gap I feel many times when examining artists work. I yearn for depth and sometimes the art can’t speak for itself. I want explanation and I want the artist’s raw emotions in their work. “Trendsetters in Triptych” handed me this on a silver platter.
The piece that spoke the loudest to me was the Jazz Legends: Dizzy Gillespie, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, shot in Los Angeles in 1950. Each blurb recounted on how the photographer, Bob Willoughby, was paralyzed by their music and talent. He expressed that the music just took him over and touched his heart.
Speaking about Gillespie, Willoughby smiled, saying, “Oh yes, I can still hear the music whenever I see those photographs.” In Louis’s blurb, Willoughby recalls a wholesome, light moment where Ella Fitzgerald imitated Louis. Last, his reflection on Miles Davis melted me.
He recounted his physical reactions in his experience listening to Davis: “There are a few musicians touched with the magic ability to communicate a feeling that is so strong, that it can make the hairs on the back on one’s neck stand up, and that … was exactly what Miles Davis did to me … Miles was connecting with everyone in the audience, if they could be touched. Singing his song to them … to me, through his enchanted trumpet.” Most of the descriptions are as informal and cozy as that, almost like peeking into someone’s journal.
See this compilation for yourself. It is truly a beautiful collection of history, life and extraordinary humans.