Bat Boy gazes at the lens in one photo, and Tat Boy lifts his arm to show his tattoo in the other.
They are different ages, but they are one in the same person.
And that person is Amy James’ son, her progeny.
This is the title of her photography exhibit at Baton Rouge Gallery, Progeny.
Progeny is one of three exhibits showing in the gallery through Thursday, June 28. James’ work is joined by Phyllis Lear’s bird nest sculptures in the exhibit Chalices and Kelly A. Mueller’s textile artwork in the exhibit Murmur.
The three shows are linked by emotion, feelings so strong that they well up the moment visitors cross the front door threshold.
That’s where they’re greeted by James’ Progeny, a documentation of sorts of her two sons.
James is a single mom, and this exhibit spans quite a number of years, from the time when her youngest son was running around in bat-decorated underwear at maybe 4-or-so years old to his late teen years, where he readily shows his tattoos.
The emotion is probably strongest in James’ photos, because the feelings here are real. Visitors are looking through James’ eyes, laughing with her, standing proud yet holding tight to these two sons who will eventually leave home to pursue their own ambitions.
“With Progeny, photographer Amy James turns her unique and insightful photographic eye to the familiar struggles of motherhood,” the gallery’s label stated.
“A mother of two preparing to send her youngest to college, James finds herself reflecting on the blood, sweat and tears of raising her sons without a partner, the male/female dynamic of raising children of the opposite sex and the bonds that began to form in-utero.”
The photos also examine a new chapter in James’ life as a woman and an artist.
“She finds herself contemplating the grieving that comes with letting them go and the fears she has had and still has for them both,” the label stated.
James has been a gallery artist member since 2003. She was trained as a painter but was drawn to the darkroom upon realizing that photography offered as big a challenge as canvas and paint.
James shoots primarily are in black and white, using silver and film.
The generational theme flows from James’ work in the front gallery to Lear’s in the back, where Lear has created sculptures from bird’s nests she collected during winter walks.
“It occurred to the artist that bird nests were sacred, temporary vessels built up above the ground, holding a new generation,” the gallery label stated.
“This led her to consider them as chalices, which are vessels held high during rituals.”
Lear creates her figures out of wire and papier-mache, building on the tradition of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti as the stem for each chalice. The bird nests serve as the cup.
Lear first joined the Baton Rouge Gallery artist membership in 2005. She earned master’s degrees from LSU, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and Louisiana Tech University in Ruston.
Mueller’s exhibit, meantime, doesn’t examine entities through generations but through their behavior.
“The concept of emergent behaviors, phenomena in which a group of singular entities create a more complex behavioral system as a collective, inspired Kelly A. Mueller’s exhibition, Murmur,” the gallery label stated. “Her pattern-based and highly textural work weaves natural and biological phenomena and systems with remnants of our daily habits and routines.”
Mueller received her master’s degree in fine arts at Northern Illinois University in 2004.
After moving to New Orleans in 2006 for an extended residency at the Greater New Orleans Artist Mansion, Mueller became the Visual Arts Chair of the Certificate of Artistry program at Lusher Charter High School in New Orleans.
And now her work joins that of James and Lear in Baton Rouge Gallery, stirring the gallery spaces with emotions.
Where generations grow from Bat Boy into Tat Boy.
Then leave their nests.