Vance received his MFA in photography from Virginia Commonwealth University. He has been widely exhibited and published and has received numerous grants for his work including one from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was co-founder and executive director of pARTs Photographic Arts in Minneapolis where he also curated exhibitions for 13 years. He joined IFP Center for Media Arts as photography curator in 2008.
There’s something about visiting visual artists in their studios. It not only yields compelling imagery, I find it creatively inspirational. After leaving the gallery in 2003, I set off on another project to find self-taught artists around Minnesota for interviews and portraits in their studios. The portraits were complemented with images of their environment that were taken on the way to or from the artist’s studio. These were paired with their portraits and a sample of their artwork in the exhibition REAL: Artists and Landscapes.
From the NY Times: When Vance Gellert studied pharmacology in the early ’70s, he found that a scientific method of systematic observation, precise measurement and disciplined testing could explain the efficacy of most treatments. For that matter, it was a satisfying way of explaining much of the world around him.
“Since it was invented, photography has served science as a recorder of facts,” Mr. Gellert said, “but photography also has subtleties and nuance that can communicate on a different level. When you start looking at things that are not quantifiable, photography might be an excellent tool.”
It is difficult to capture spiritual experience in a photograph. Yet Mr. Gellert’s portraits often suggest powers lurking just beyond what the eye can see.
The shamans let him into their lives and encouraged him to photograph their treatments. They had confidence in their practice and had no qualms about sharing it with a medical colleague, even one who might occasionally have seemed slow to fully grasp what they were doing.
Though he started his quest to learn about the relation between ritual and medicine, he came to see ceremony and ritual as an integral part of healing. “The medicines are the tool, but it is the process of interaction between healer and patient that is most important,” Mr. Gellert said.
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