© Phyllis Crowley
Full press release:
“Off Peak” is an exhibition of color photographs taken of train windows by New Haven artist Phyllis Crowley. She says, "This series began 10 years ago when I took a Metro North train to New York City. The windows were filthy—so encrusted you could hardly see out of them in places. After my initial annoyance (since window watching is my main occupation), I realized that if the window were the focus, the subject could be transformed into something much more interesting, more meditative, with references to memory, chance, time, painting.”
The result is abstraction, but the images inspire a feeling familiar to all riders of trains. Most people who live in Connecticut and the tri-state area have ridden the railroad, and let their thoughts drift while looking out the window. Associations shift almost as quickly as the constantly changing scenery. But what of the window that provides a little bit of distortion, a little bit of a buffer between a passenger and the “real” world?
Crowley explains in her artist’s statement, “From the moving train, fleeting images of the landscape are perceived and held for a fraction of a second and then dissolve into memory. The train window creates an interface between the rider and the landscape, which is normally seen as transparent, but by perceiving the window as an important part of the scene,rather than a barrier, the camera transforms the subject.
Clear outlines dissolve into abstract forms, sides of buildings become washes of color; grass and trees turn into brushstrokes, and the lens records the marks and stains on the window as impartially as what lies beyond. The camera creates an imperfect memory image.”
Crowley grew up in New York City. She learned how to use a camera from her father at about age 11, and how to print shortly after that. She says of that experience, "We worked in a tiny room in our apartment on an old table with water carried in from the kitchen. The magic of the process became clear when the image appeared in the developer, and because it was never as sparkling as desired, I also knew there were secrets to be learned.”
She is a self-taught photographer with additional instruction from Visual Studies Workshop and Maine Photographic Workshop. She graduated from Vassar College, and has many years of professional and teaching experience.
Crowley currently resides in New Haven, where she is a member of City Gallery and teaches photography at Creative Arts Workshop. Crowley is a two-time recipient of an Artist Fellowship from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and she exhibits nationally. Her work is in public, corporate, and private collections.