Arty Girl: Joseph Labate at West Valley Art Museum

By Lilia Menconi

By Joseph Labate.

I absolutely love the West Valley Art Museum. But I didn’t grow up on the Westside, I only have a few acquaintances who live there and I don’t have any ailing grandparents in Sun City. So, other than the museum, there’s not much reason to make the drive. But I’ve never been disappointed with a visit. The museum does an excellent job with their small yet modern building.

Speaking of Grandparents, my favorite part about this museum are the volunteers. They’re at the age of retirement and it’s obvious they adore art. And they happen to be just the sweetest bunch of people who will tell you everything you want to know about the works and then promptly let you alone to enjoy the art privately. I’ve always felt welcome with them and once gazed at a giant marionette of a completely naked man with one of the older ladies in the room. I thought it might give me some weird yucky feeling – like when I used to believe my dead relatives could see me do bad things with boys. But, fortunately for me, I could stare at this puppet wang and feel totally comfy. She was cool.

By Joseph Labate.

It’s great to see older generations successfully hang with younger folks. Which is sort of what Joseph Labate is all about. The local photographer is the chair of photography in the School of Art at U of A. He certainly isn’t old in age. But, he learned photography back in the day when exposures, negatives, contact paper and darkrooms were the game.

Having stuck by this traditional method for most of his career, Labate shut down his darkroom and sold his equipment a few years ago. Replacing the darkroom with computers and software, he went digital.

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That’s not to say he never looked back. Labate explores the space between our former interpretations of photography and this new meaning. Photographs were once seen as reliable evidence. Now, with the ability to fabricate images of, well, anything, we’ve lost trust in the photographic image completely.

But what have we gained? And what else should we mourn?

Labate tackles these questions with his work and his show, “Digital Retrospection: A Dozen Years of Photography” open until December 14th.

West Valley Art Museum, 17420 North Avenue of the Arts in Surprise, 623-972-0635, http://wvam.org .

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