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RI Archives: Arts

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Leonard Nimoy’s “Secret Selves”

Now - January 2
Rural Intelligence ArtsPhotograph: Seth Kay Photography
Aristophanes had a theory that man’s woes stem from the day that Zeus cleaved man in two and left him forever struggling to be whole again.  Prior to that fateful day, the comic playwright of ancient Athens speculated, humans were double-sided creatures with two heads and multiple limbs.  For his latest series of black and white photographs, Secret Selves, the actor-turned-art photographer Leonard Nimoy explores this theory, inviting 100 subjects to reveal the side of themselves that no one knows, perhaps the half they, too, have always been searching for.  Working out of R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton, MA, in 2007, Nimoy and Richard Michelson sought businessmen and bus drivers, social workers and house-husbands, clergy and members of their congregations. They even recruited passersby willing to be posed, and dressed as either their true or their imagined secret selves.

Michelson recalls, “As each subject walked into the studio, some eagerly, most nervously, Leonard approached each for a short conversation. The goal was to put them at ease, find out their ‘real life’ identity, and what inner self they hoped Leonard might capture. At the last moment, we decided to video the proceedings, more as a method of archive documentation than with the idea of enlarging the project. But it became apparent immediately that these exchanges were illuminating, and would have a greater role in the final exhibit than anticipated. Within a few minutes, Leonard was able to bring the subjects deeper inside their own selves than they’d intended. What began as a lark for many turned into a truly revealing and emotional experience. And at just the moment they were most themselves—and often off-guard—the shutter snapped. And snapped again.”  Accompanying the large, life-size photographs in the exhibition is the video documenting the artist’s conversations with his subjects and the poignant, personal moments he masterfully elicits from his muses.

North Adams
MASS MoCA members opening reception Saturday, July 31; 4 - 7 p.m.

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