ArtBeat: Dona Ann McAdams’ “Some Women” @ the Opalka Gallery

Dona Ann McAdams: Pro Choice Rally, New York City, 1994
Dona Ann McAdams: Pro Choice Rally, New York City, 1994

Documentary photographer Dona Ann McAdams’ exhibit “Some Women” opened at the Opalka Gallery in Albany on November 1, but since the local papers have abdicated pretty much all responsibility for reviewing local art, it’s gone practically unnoticed. This is a shame, if not something more, because McAdams is a tenacious soul, and her pictures have an acute and mordant mystery.

Widely known as the chief photographic witness of New York’s downtown performance scene in the 1980s (her work chronicled artists from John Cage to Karen Findley), McAdams has, for this exhibit, put that work aside in favor of an eclectic range of other projects, from AIDS activism and nuclear energy to Appalachian farm women and Roman nuns.

She’s a traditionalist, technically (working with a manual Leica and black and white film) and philosophically. There’s not a single staged tableau or rephotographed miniature landscape among these images, but rather instances of dignity, struggle and fantastic weirdness drawn from life itself.

The show contains 35 16″-by-20″ silver prints, one for each of her years behind the camera, not a retrospective so much as a compelling sample of her vision and scope.

“What photographers do,” she says, “is go out into the world and steal. They take things.” Yes, but like all the good ones, McAdams gives more than she receives, transmuting fleeting moments into penetrating views of the human condition.

McAdams will lead a guided walk-through of the exhibit at 7pm today (Friday, December 4) at the Opalka Gallery at the Sage College of Albany, as part of the monthly First Friday arts walk events. The “Some Women” exhibition will remain on view through Wednesday, December 16.

Dona Ann McAdams: Madrid, 1988
Dona Ann McAdams: Madrid, 1988

Written by Tim Cahill

  1. Debby says

    This is an excellent exhibit, well worth seeing. I friend took me through it on Monday, and the gallery was empty, maybe because it was a work day, which was still a shame. McAdams covers a lot of ground geographically, but her approach draws you right into photograph, and there’s nothing in her subject matter that wouldn’t resonate locally. The tri-city papers ought to be on top of reporting shows such as this. I only wish I could be there at the walk through tonight with the artist herself (prior to nipping in to Valentines for the Neighborhoods–that would be a Good Night Out).

  2. [email protected] says

    Debby, thanks for seconding that emotion. And that would indeed be a Good Night Out (I’d venture to say perhaps even a Great Night Out), but just to keep things clear: The McAdams walk-through is tonight (Friday), and the Neighborhoods show at Valentine’s is tomorrow (Saturday) night.

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