Ted Holteen/Durango Herald
Even those of us who know her well have given up wondering where McCarson Jones finds the inspiration for some of her projects. But the end result always is something to talk about.
Few local exhibits will generate the kind of buzz of Jones’ latest adventure in photography, “Mignon: A Collection of Figures in the Flesh.” Chances are, many locals will recognize the faces even if we’re more accustomed to seeing the models with their clothes on. (A caveat; I should say “our” clothes because Jones somehow convinced even the Herald’s Arts & Entertainment Editor, which is me, to “get in the box” for “Mignon.” Sorry.)
The box is a 5-by-5-by-5-foot white cube built by local carpenter Brent Gleeson, who also built all of the box frames for the exhibit. Jones wrangled 28 local models to pose in the box with nothing but a prop or two. Yes, nothing means nothing, as in no clothes. But at the risk of sounding cliché, it’s not smut – it’s art.
The title comes from Ambroise Thomas’ 1866 French opera of the same name. The peripheral characters of the opera, which centers on the title character of Mignon, are represented by the models in Jones’ show, which replaces the stage with the box. And as for the format, she got the idea from a similar layout in which the subjects were all elderly, exhibiting a freshness and rawness that spawned Jones’ vision for “Mignon.”
“Over and over again I am drawn to expressions of the truth,” Jones wrote in her own explanation of “Mignon.” “Be that truth look painful, excited, in love, sorrowful, sad, elated or angry, perhaps even indifferent, imperfect, beautiful and raw ... it is still the truth.”
Some of the images are simple solo shots, some with props, some without, and others are couples. The shots were taken using natural light, which gives each its own unique look depending on what time of day the session took place.
“They each bring their own uniqueness to the setting, all bringing one thing with them. This one thing may or may not define them,” Jones wrote.
As eye-catching as the photos themselves is the unique presentation Jones came up with for “Mignon.” Each is covered in a clear-coat epoxy for a look that’s more familiar on a ’68 Camaro than a photograph, but the visual result is a stunning “liquid glass” effect.
The epoxy finish also makes each photo nearly indestructible, which is fortuitous given Jones’ future plans for “Mignon.” The show will be up for one night only here in Durango, but she’ll be packing up and taking the show on the road in February to the Los Angeles Art Walk. “Mignon” will be on display at the Phil Stern Gallery, where Jones is a gallery representative for the legendary photographer’s namesake gallery.
The Los Angeles version will be slightly larger; four of the 28 local models opted out of the Durango show because of their high profile in the community. Each will be included in the California show. The Durango show also will include a wall of “outtakes,” and future plans also include a book of the “Mignon” images.
Courtesy of McCarson Jones