Friday, May 20, 2011

Photography Exhibition by Karly Kolaja Examines Modern Culture in the Sacred Valley, Peru

CHESTERTOWN, MD—An exhibition opening May 20 at the Kohl Gallery will showcase the Senior Capstone Experience of Karly Kolaja, a Crumpton resident who will graduate from Washington College this Sunday, May 22, with a double major in Photojournalism and English, and a minor in Art and Art History.
The exhibition, which continues through June 18, features some 30 photographs with captions and Kolaja's essay, " 'The Essential Impulse of the Andes:' Visual Literacy and the Culture of the Sacred Valley, Peru." It is the culmination of more than three years of work.
Transferring to Washington College in the second semester of her first year, Kolaja wanted to combine her dual interests in photography and social justice and to follow in the footsteps of female photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Carol Guzy, and Washington College's own Constance Stuart Larrabee. To accomplish her goal, she created a Self-Designed Major in photojournalism under the direction of Professor Donald McColl in the Department of Art and Art History. She also complemented the classes required by her English major with a wide array of classes across several disciplines, including Introduction to Western Art, Photography, American Pictures, Global Ethics, Social Inequalities, American Government and Politics, Nonfiction Writing, and Creative Nonfiction. She completed independent studies with photographer Denise Campbell, an adjunct Lecturer of Art.
With the help of a grant from the College's Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows, Kolaja eventually went to Peru to document in photos the tension between tourism and traditional ways of life. "The area I explored once encompassed the Sacred Valley—the religious, political and military seat of the Inca Empire," she writes. "Now, it is recognized as the country's tourism capital, with some 800,000 visitors passing through its largest city, Cuzco, each year. I wondered if any vestiges of traditional Andean ways of life have survived this vacationing onslaught."
"Ever since my childhood," she continues, "my cinematographer father has instilled a belief in me that photography is all about telling stories. I have come to agree with him.... [Photography] has the power to arouse sincere feelings. And it can effect real change."
While completing her degree at Washington College, Kolaja consistently made the Dean's List, in addition to receiving the Hugh McGuire Award and Academic Scholarship and the 2010 Undergraduate Studio Award for Most Promising Undergraduate Artist. She was also made a member of Omicron Delta Kappa (the National Leadership Honor Society), Sigma Tau Delta (the National English Honor Society), and Phi Beta Kappa.
Kolaja photographed countless events on campus through her work in such organizations as the College's Office of College Relations and Marketing, the WACapella singing group and the Pegasus yearbook. She worked as a reporter for The Chestertown Spy and completed two internships: At Baltimore's Urbanite magazine, she worked under the direction of Alex Castro, an artist, architect and designer who serves as Designer in Residence at Washington College. And as an intern with BuildaBridge (a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that uses the transformative power of the arts to bring hope and healing to children, families, and communities) she documented an exhibition of young people's art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
An Opening Reception in honor of the artist will be held Friday, May 20 at 6 p.m. The gallery show and reception are free and open to the public. The Gibson Center for the Arts is located on the Washington College campus, 300 Washington Avenue. Kohl Gallery hours are Wednesday and Thursday, 1 to 5 p.m., Friday noon to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.