Barron Claiborne’s photographs are a fusion of divergent and powerful elements encompassing mythology, allegory, history, symbolism, and imagination. Illuminados (Santos Negros) The Luminous Black Saints, an exhibition on view through September 9 at +81 Gallery, is comprised of 33 photographs made by Claiborne with an 8 x 10 Polaroid camera. Illuminados includes several bodies of work made between 1999 and 2011. Shot in his New York City studio, the series contemplate the Female Form (Venus Aurea), Women (Goddess), Saints (Muurmaidens and Orishas), and the Twins (Double Duplication). He also captured a crown-wearing Notorious B.I.G. as the King of New York.
“Claiborne’s reimagined icons take the viewer into a realm of contemporary urban magical realism where anything is possible,” writes Rebecca Pietri in the curatorial statement. Each meticulously planned photograph has its own personality, visual metanarrative, and story to tell about the divine and sacred, both within and outside the Western imagination.
Barron Claiborne is a self-taught photographer who began taking photographs at the age of 10 after receiving a camera as a gift from his mother, Betty Lou. He specializes in large format photography, especially 8×10 and 4×5 Polaroid. In 1990, he moved to New York City from Boston, Massachusetts, where he was born and raised. His imagery, imbued with symbolism, references the stories and oral traditions of his American ancestry – the people of the Lumbee, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes.
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