New gallery el­e­vates life, peo­ple in black and white

Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & ARTS - By Luke Quin­ton

Les­ley Nowlin’s gallery con­sists of two lit­tle rooms with a lot of im­pact.

Up a few stairs off West Sixth Street, the door opens onto the main ex­hibit space, whose gray walls are cov­ered with pho­to­graphs for “The Por­trait,” L. Nowlin Gallery’s lat­est ex­hibit.

Nowlin, with short hair and a tiny sil­ver nose stud, has an aura of con­fi­dent de­ter­mi­na­tion as she sits at her desk, en­veloped by the im­ages she has se­lected. She is thrilled by her lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion. “It’s so di­verse. This is my fa­vorite show that I’ve done so far.”

The di­ver­sity stands out, but so does Nowlin’s eye for im­ages with a force­ful pres­ence. They are by turns mys­ti­cal, tran­scen­dent, gut-wrench­ing and com­i­cal. Most are black and white, and they’re framed in sil­very steel or blond or red wood, some thin and shal­low, oth­ers set deep.

Nowlin, a well-known Austin pho­tog­ra­pher, be­gan work­ing as a gal­lerist in May of last year, af­ter be­ing ap­proached by the Wally Work­man Gallery, which joins the L. Nowlin Gallery at the hip.

The walls are mostly stripped of ex­pla­na­tions, ti­tles or lists of ma­te­ri­als, giv­ing them a stream­lined look. Sur­rounded by the forms of so many provoca­tive peo­ple, you re­al­ize the unique space a por­trait oc­cu­pies. “I love the face,” Nowlin says. “I think it can tell so many sto­ries.”

The works av­er­age be­tween $300 and $500, with a few that fairly can be called bar­gains. Take Aus­ti­nite Megan Car­ney’s stun­ning “Dad, Ev­ery­day,” a vivid black-and-white im­age of her fa­ther and his re­flec­tion, as he dives into a glassy swim­ming pool, sur­rounded by fo­liage. It’s at once mov­ing and com­i­cal.

Then there are Nowlin’s fa­vorites, by London’s Gi­u­ditta Del Vec­chio. Two large, grainy, al­most sepia por­traits that came from a Prous­tian ex­er­cise: the sub­ject stared at a pic­ture from his child­hood while the artist cap­tured a long

ex­po­sure. “It’s eerie, beau­ti­ful and haunt­ing,” says Nowlin.

Raised in Austin, Nowlin moved to Bos­ton af­ter grad­u­at­ing col­lege, but New Eng­land didn’t quite take, so she used that time to pho­to­graph her own projects, like war protests and twins, an on­go­ing project for Nowlin, who’s a twin her­self.

Now she’s been back for six years. “I came back be­cause I needed con­nec­tions, I needed work. I wanted to re­ally fo­cus on pho­tog­ra­phy and not bar­tend or wait­ress,” Nowlin says.

Nowlin con­tin­ues to shoot her own works, and has re­cently em­barked on a third busi­ness: mixed-me­dia com­mis­sions.

Nowlin cred­its the East Austin Stu­dio Tour with help­ing her get or­ga­nized. “It just made me put my work to­gether in frames and put a show to­gether on my own.”

It also led to her meet­ing with Rachel Hag­garty of Wally Work­man. When the F8 Gallery was about to close, Work­man ap­proached Nowlin and sug­gested she’d be a good fit for the space.

A year later, Nowlin is still en­thu­si­as­tic. “It’s about the print. I love the print. I love mak­ing an im­age come to life on paper, and it’s pur­pose­ful and it’s di­rect, and it’s art. I like that idea, and that com­ple­tion and that cre­ation.”

There re­main some chal- lenges. “I don’t know how to sell art; I’m just learn­ing,” Nowlin says. “I just know what I like and I know what I want to put up here.” Part of the chal­lenge, she says, is lo­cat­ing clients who “love and want to buy black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy.”

The lat­est group ex­hibit seems to have set a new spark for the gallery. “The Por­trait” was L. Nowlin’s first open call, and its first group show. She saw 200 sub­mis­sions from 10 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, slic­ing it down to 40 pho­tog­ra­phers, 50 im­ages and six coun­tries.

Up­com­ing is a show of Polly Chan­dler’s Po­laroids, which will go up and then come down for a week so the L. Nowlin can show work from Bruce Davidson, the iconic Mag­num pho­tog­ra­pher, af­ter which the Chan­dler show goes back on the wall.

The mo­men­tum con­tin­ued with this month’s open­ing party, which Nowlin says “was so packed, it was un­com­fort­able.” The old house got a lit­tle toasty. The two gal­leries make for a big gath­er­ing —“We ran out of 600 cups, that’s all I know,” she said.

Jar­rad Hen­der­son

Leslie Nowlin made a ca­reer out of tak­ing pho­tos. Now she steps into the role of gallery owner, host­ing a show of por­traits from around the world at her L. Nowlin Gallery.

Jar­rad Hen­der­son

Twins have be­come a fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject for Les­ley Nowlin to pho­to­graph. She is a twin her­self.

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