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MARA Art Studio and Gallery exhibit highlights local photographers

The "Through The Lens... perspectives" exhibit runs through June 18.

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  • | 9:33 a.m. May 10, 2021
Jesse Clark had friends pose as models for his photo gallery examining masculinity.
Jesse Clark had friends pose as models for his photo gallery examining masculinity.
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May is National Photography Month, and Mara Torres, the owner of the MARA Art Studio + Gallery in the Rosemary District, thought there would be no better way to recognize the artform than with a photography-focused exhibition. 

The work of eight photographers of varying styles and backgrounds from Florida and Puerto Rico is on display as part of the “THROUGH THE LENS… perspectives” exhibit that opened with a party on May 7 and will run through June 18. 

Two of those photographers are Sarasota figures who have gone about using their cameras to highlight human emotion and the different forms of masculinity, respectively.

Torres started looking at assembling the exhibit in January. 

“I have a vision of what I want,” Torres said. “I started looking at photographers and their work to then put the pieces together to build the puzzle.”

Jesse Clark

Jesse Clark, a 20-year-old student at the Ringling College of Art and Design, says he has had Black masculinity and form on his mind for some time. 

His new untitled series of photos at the MARA gallery is an attempt to explore various forms of masculinity and how they intersect with Black culture.

 The collection consists of photos detailing Black men carrying baskets and headdresses on their heads. Clark says head carrying is typically a female custom in many cultures and that he wanted to twist that idea to show the beauty and vulnerability of Black men. 

“As a Haitian American, I want to touch back on (this culture),” Clark said. “... There are portrayals on television and media of this idea of what the Black male is and usually it's tough and aggressive. I was thinking about what is masculinity and what is vulnerability, and how can I show that so that they know that we too are humans and we have feelings?”

Clark made the headdresses himself — each an individual design with its own colors — and had three of his classmates serve as  models. 

He says he has a background in dance and ballet that taught him how to balance toughness and softness, and he hopes his photography work has better illustrated his interest in vulnerability and fragility. Better yet, he says he’s proud of his work and happy to see it in a gallery. 

“It's definitely an honor,” Clark said.  “I still feel young and I'm in this gallery with a lot of professionals that have been working for years … I kind of see this as sort of just the beginning.”

Barbara Banks

Photographer Barbara Banks brought several pieces from her “Worker” series, which looks through a black-and-white framing at the many workers who transformed the 1926 Sarasota High School building into the Sarasota Art Museum. 

Barbara Banks attended the opening night party on May. 7.
Barbara Banks attended the opening night party on May. 7.

Torres says she contacted Banks about joining the exhibit because her portraits of various workers helped highlight the often-overlooked human element that went into the art museum. 

“They're overlooked and they're underappreciated,” Banks said. “It was probably one of the most meaningful projects I've ever done.”

The photos are a culmination of months of work for Banks, who says she slowly grew to bond with many of the workers during their time on the project. She says she took thousands of photos at the site.

“I asked people, day after day, if they would mind if I took their portrait while they worked,” Banks said. “I just was so touched by the way they knew they were being seen … I showed a genuine interest and I genuinely did care.”


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