More than a clever name for an art exhibit, “Two for the Road: A Photographic Journey” unites two artists’ mutual passion for travel. Kate Stillwell’s and Wil Scott’s first joint show together at the Waverly Street Gallery in Bethesda offers a first-class ticket to see the world through a pair of powerful lenses.
Stillwell and Scott have globe-trotted their way to prominence as Maryland-based photographers. Stillwell documents inspirations from some of “the planet’s most alluring, intriguing and remote locations.” Her travelogue features Tibet, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Egypt, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Morocco and Portugal, as well as the Galapagos, Caribbean, Tahitian and Hawaiian islands. Scott is a seasoned photographer with a five-page list of professional accomplishments including multiple best in shows, honorable mentions and first- and second-place awards in juried shows around the area and the country.
The two Annapolis-based photographers have a professional friendship and belong to the Maryland Federation of Art (MFA). “We have collaborated over the years [as] MFA board members,” said Stillwell, but never before exhibited together. “Wil came up with the title ‘Two for the Road,’ which perfectly captures our styles,” Stillwell said.
Drawn to the Waverly Street Gallery because of its reputation for quality exhibitions, the two noted there was an opening in January 2017 for a single or duo show. This motivated them to apply jointly. The gallery welcomed the them to exhibit their works, with Barbara Pliskin as the show’s coordinator and curator. “We could not have done this without her guidance,” Stillwell said.
Visitors to the show can expect everything except the glossy panoramas typically found in travel magazines. Instead, said Scot, the “photography reveals in imagery the interior exploration of imagination and inspiration” in images that are “felt more than seen.”
Stillwell approaches her art by “seeing and capturing life’s fleeting moments as unique opportunities,” she said. “Being inspired to see something different in an ordinary moment and having the skill set to portray its essence drives most of my work.” For example, she said, “An ordinary walk on the mudflats of Maine during low tide resulted in a magical capture of shadows, light and texture. Snapping a Miami urban image of broken car window ‘quick fixed’ with Saran Wrap transforms it into a bold statement…concentrated on the grittiness of the moment.” Stillwell described herself as able to see magic in the most ordinary of settings.
Scott said he “shares Kate’s approach in finding beautiful and interesting subjects in my immediate surroundings. In fact, one of the connections she and I have is the experience of Maine and other locals, which appears in our work.” Take “TJ’s Lunch Counter,” a photo of a local restaurant in the small town of Wells River Junction, Vt. “I was driving home from Essex Junction when I passed through Wells River Junction at about 10 at night in August,” said Scott. “TJ’s was empty, but lit up brightly. I passed by. Then, I turned around in the middle of Main Street and went back. Glad I did.”
“More recently,” said Scott, “I’ve tended toward more use of black and white. Black and white accentuates the shift toward a greater realization of the fragility and brevity of our time in this world.” Interestingly, these black-and-white images are shot in color and printed in black and white. While black-and-white images can tell moodier, darker stories, Scott said these images are not “pessimistic.” He explained his move away from strong color and familiar scenes to grittier and more unsettling subjects as driven by a “sensitivity to the people around me and more awareness of our shared mortality.”
When discussing the pros and cons of doing a two-person show, Stillwell underscored that “there are absolutely no downsides to venturing into joint shows.” This is not her first. “If artists are generous of spirit and open to collaboration, it is a wonderful way to expand one’s personal, creative and professional universe,” she said.
Stillwell noted the more practical advantages include the ability to split up responsibilities involved with putting up a show and share the expenses that would otherwise be the responsibility of a solo exhibitor “It’s great having another person to discuss and coordinate pieces with. Wil is highly collaborative and it is particularly great that he has a marvelous sense of humor,” she said.
“Two For the Road: A Photographic Journey” is at the Waverly Street Gallery, 4600 East-West Highway, Bethesda, through Feb. 4. An artists’ talk is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 28. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Call 301-951-9441 or visit http://waverlystreetgallery.com.