Mary Beth Bishop’s Remarks at Gregg’s Memorial Service on March 12, 2016
Monday, Feb. 8 at 10:35 pm:
Hello Mary Beth,
Hope all is well with you. Sadly Gregg died peacefully at home Sunday morning He just slipped away while the nursing assistant was putting lotion on him after bathing. Very peaceful.
His courage and humility was an inspiration to me in these last weeks. We had some wonderful conversations and I am very grateful.
I’ll see you at ERUUF on Sunday,
Monday, Feb. 8 at 10:48 pm:
I realized time was short. What a wonderful awful journey you had together. I would love to stop by briefly tomorrow if you like. Or another day.
Monday, Feb. 8 at 11:56 pm:
I’ve been thinking about Gregg for this last hour. About his work. It seems he was capturing a vital insight. Not sure how to say it yet. It was all an exploration of light. In darkness. Now I feel he has slipped into pure light.
As a visual artist Gregg recorded his experiences with illness.
There are three large mixed media works.
One you see on the living room wall above the sofa in the home he and Carmela shared.
It takes courage to look.
Covering the wall in tones of black and grey is a scene of fire and flood:
The discernible structure of a house collapsing into a dark wild landscape
Here is what cancer was doing to his body and his life.
There is a witness.
An owl perched to the right links the vision of disaster to the eye of the viewer.
Gregg painted the owl into this scene representing witness:
Part watch keeper, part interpreter
A creature who can see into the darkness with unflinching eye.
There is a brick foundation wall at the foot of the back steps that connect house to studio.
Gregg painted an over large porthole through which you see a sun drenched sea.
The glare off the water makes me feel my pocket for sun glasses and
I am sure that if you step closer you too will smell the salt air..
March 12, 2016 (continued)
There is a photo of Gregg as a child. Cowboy hat, shirt, chaps, boots, holsters, pistols, with a smile for the photographer (mom) that lights his eyes and covers his face.
This is the chubby cheeked brave little buckaroo who became the brilliant, organized, introspective, edgy, loving genius we knew.
The Gregg many of you knew before the cancer diagnosis.
Gregg brought all these qualities to his years of life with cancer.
He never stopped living forward but focused his artist’s eye and photographer’s skill to record the dark places
the lights that shine into dark places.
We are all familiar with his studies of moon and starlight.
Sometimes he captured light, night after night, creating a sky so bright it illuminates the dark land below.
Gregg Kemp opening
April 10, 2018
Carmela asked me to say a few things about Gregg Kemp as a teacher and to share my reflection on the journey with cancer inspired by the body of work on the walls here tonight.
My indelible memory of Gregg was being his student at my first Pinhole Day celebration. The last weekend in April, 2008. He taught some classes at the Durham Arts Council some years past, and I had heard good things. I’d left photography as an avocation for clay. Still, I was always interested in “alternative processes”. I was happy to spend a weekend dabbling with this one.
With Gregg, a student did not dabble. Sitting down at the table from the first moment it was clear this was science, a challenge, a dance with form and function, light and magic.
Surprising at first was his display of the variety of containers that could be modified to hold film and light to create image. Some of these are on display here and many of you know the technical steps better than I. What I want to share with you is the absolute thrill of being led through this process by its master. The math of light mapping was new. Reading a light meter was familiar but knowing the path of the sun or moon on this day in this month and season was impressive. The explanation was over my head often but when it came time to capture an image, it was pure fun to work with such a guide.
Some students came with an idea in mind. I was willing to try a teacher suggestion. If you put this here you can actually get an image from beneath the leaves. Kind, thoughtful, inside his head, on task; Gregg did “get it” when I referred to my achievement as “eye of the snail” photos.
I remember being impressed by his dexterity in the dark room. Developing and printing our images to economize time. Image making was the focus and the sharing after. This was a short workshop remember. I also expect he might have gone quite mad watching us fiddle about in the darkroom when he could do all our work with such precision it best compares to choreography you might encounter at ADF.
I had two more of these experiences. The last one a small group gathered by word of mouth invitation. Gregg said once that he always celebrated Pinhole Day. It was his high holiday. His Christmas, Passover, 4th of July…(his birthday)
When you look at Gregg’s work, aside from the captivating images, what you need to know is that each line of the light was chosen. The setting up of the camera device was mathematically determined to put that line of light in precisely that place that night or on occasion those lines of light in perfect parallel on successive nights. This is what happened when science, mathematics and aesthetic genius were in perfect accord.
All of this combined to make the powerful images in the show before you.
Two of the images I call “Diagnosis”are here tonight. These are multi media works using pinhole technique for the foundational images. You can puzzle them out but for me they represent photography as high art. Taken as a whole, each one penetrates to the visceral experience of devastating loss. This is how it feels to hear _____________________. ( you fill in the blank)
By far the most numerous images are made capturing light in the darkness. They are a celebration of everything Gregg knew. There is always enough light to see and make one more good thing. These are images of reconciliation:
Of light and darkness
Of the serendipitous intersection of control and the unknown
And celebration of natural rhythms and space.
In closing I want to share with you my response to the works:
As if coasting on a beautiful day,
heart full with music and expectation
A turn and
I am stopped.
A great storm rages around what was my storied house
Now edge balanced on river rock
Like waking bed upon wall
A child in crib cast through gap to float mid air
I am fragile sticks suspended on unsettled ground
Wild current all about
Watcher and watched
Surrounded by sound
Evacuate or die?
I love the light
It is at once my treasure and my tool.
Not light as great outpouring on the beach in August
But as a searching beam in the woods at dawn,
Which dives through branch and leaf to pond gold on forest floor.
I have become a collector of light that shines in the dark hours.