“‘Panorama Ray’ Remembered”
Opening night, 7 p.m. Aug. 12. Free. Exhibit runs through Sept. 3. Regular gallery hours: 6-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 2-6 p.m. Sundays. Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, 88 Forsyth St. S.W., Atlanta. 678-813-7860, eyedrum.org.
The picture remains clear in her mind. Costume artist Rosemary Kimble, co-organizer of the upcoming “‘Panorama Ray’ Remembered” exhibit, vividly recalls a snapshot of late photographer Ray Herbert’s personality.
Kimble, who forged a friendship with Herbert in the 1990s, remembers the lensman stepping outside his Cabbagetown studio, home to his panoramic pics and equally horizontal folk art paintings. In an effort to support a Cabbagetown resident — Cabbageheads, he called them — who fancied herself as an aerialist, Herbert flung an old mattress beneath a tree standing next to the Carroll Street sidewalk. This gave his pal a potential soft landing if her swinging and flipping from tree branches went awry.
Such surreal imagery fueled Herbert’s fascination with Cabbagetown residents, whom he captured on film up until his death in 1997. An Atlanta transplant originally from Atlantic City, N.J., Herbert wielded a 100 year-old panoramic camera, taking sweeping shots of the Egyptian pyramids, the Eiffel Tower and even KKK protests in North Georgia.
Yet, the denizens of Cabbagetown at the time, some descendants of the area’s original factory worker inhabitants, wound up being his preferred collective muse.
“They were like this hillbilly group living in the city of Atlanta,” Kimble explained. “So it was a really unusual scene. Ray just loved the fact that he was living in this major city with people who seemed like they were from another time period.”
Some of Herbert’s images of the area and its inhabitants — a series he referred to as Cabbagetown USA — will be on view at “’Panorama Ray’ Remembered.” Many of these featured a technique Herbert dubbed the “living still.” Basically, Herbert would slowly move his camera while directing the subjects. He’d have each subject move across the panoramic frame of the landscape, making various poses along the way. Once he developed the image, this effect shows the subject appearing multiple times in one single image.
“There’s no artist that I know of, before him or since, who’s done that,” Kimble said.
Although approximately 50 panoramic photographs will be on view, as many as 25 of Herbert’s paintings will share exhibit space.
Kimble’s co-organizer, Shawn McElroy, who owns Herbert’s original camera, has approximately 600 of the artist’s paintings in his garage. McElroy became friends with Herbert’s son, Ray Jr., and serves as a custodian of the paintings. Since Ray Sr.’s passing, McElroy has been periodically selling the paintings on behalf of Ray Jr.
Horizontal wooden planks, similarly shaped to Herbert’s photos, served as canvases for bold, folky swipes of color and scrawly details depicting the Atlanta skyline and other homegrown imagery.
The opening night of “’Panorama Ray’ Remembered” cues the music of Waiting for UFOs, a band featuring Bill Taft, formerly of Smoke, forerunners of what local 1990s critics called “the Cabbagetown sound.” Live performance art from former “Panorama Ray” subject Carolyn “Sugar” Kayne and others add to the hoopla.
The exhibit, designed to celebrate Herbert’s work, serves a dual purpose. According to Kimble, it’s also to raise awareness of a GoFundMe.com fundraising campaign to get storage for the paintings, to clean and store Herbert’s original photographic negatives, and to find a potential museum home for his work.
Among the photos, you’ll find a shot of Kimble dressed as a Snow Queen, one of the first costumes she ever created. This “living still” finds her primping and preening across the wide angle pic. It wound up being the last photo Herbert ever took.
“‘Panorama Ray’ is an iconic Atlanta artist that needs to be recognized,” Kimble said. “(His work was) brilliant.”