Born in Raleigh, photographer Burk Uzzle has a passion for observing American life. The foremost photographer of Woodstock, Uzzle’s work has for years captured a different side of this country than is typically documented. Rather than movie-stars on red carpets, Uzzle documents the “ordinary” Americans that escape media attention, often in ironic ways. His photographs are a celebration of American weirdness; an unmasking of the idealism in our country to expose a fantastical landscape of scrap metal and jarred squirrels.
Currently, the Nasher Museum has two of Uzzle’s photographic works on display: Martin Luther King, part of Recent Acquisitions, and our work of the week, Jesus with Bath Under Glass, Florida, which is part of Light Sensitive: Photographic Works from North Carolina Collections. In the foreground of Jesus with Bat Under Glass, Florida is a collection of objects that have been individually encased in glass, perhaps by an eccentric owner. The objects include a taxidermied bat, dolls, a crucifix and a large bust of Jesus. Monetarily, the objects may be worthless, but the fact that they have been preserved in such a way indicates something about their value, or perhaps about American value in general. Curiously, the gathering dust on top of the cases suggests the opposite.
I find it really hard to put into words what Uzzle has done, which is perhaps why this photograph is so striking. He’s managed to capture these collectibles in a way that makes them appear to exist within their own little museum. Resting on a wooden table, the collection recedes into total darkness, creating the illusion that it is alone in the room. This separation of the objects from reality gives them power. We, in turn, are forced to observe and consider a random person’s bizarre collection. The best I can put it is that Uzzle’s work is like loving someone for their idiosyncrasies.
Image: Burk Uzzle, Jesus with Bat Under Glass, Florida, 2006. Color carbon print, 35 x 40 inches (88.9 x 101.6 cm). Collection of Charles Weinraub and Emily Kass.