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The final part of the preparation of the exhibition was translating the grid that we had laid out onto the floor to a mathematically precise hanging rectangle on the wall that we had to use as our canvas. So, the first thing I did was I went down the grid we laid out and just took a piece of paper and made note of the top width of every matted piece as I walked down the line. Then I counted the number of spaces in that row, added to that an extra 2 inches thinking I really wanted a tightly spaced grid in order to make it hold together well.
And then I took that total number of inches, divided it by 2, found the center of the wall and working from the center to the left side, made my starting mark for horizontal positioning. I then measured up from the floor and made by starting mark for vertical positioning. So I essentially established the top-left corner of the exhibition as a starting place for the hanging of the work. Once we had accomplished this, I went over the adhesive we were going to use, which is a padded Permanent Double Stick Adhesive-- Permanent and adhesives is a relative term-- and I knew from experimentation that this provided a strong enough bond to support the weight of the work.
Particularly some of the work on alternative media that had quite a bit of weight to them, but I knew we could stick it to the vinyl, it would adhere well, but it was also possible to remove it without damaging the vinyl. It comes in rolls with a backing tape on one side, and I had the students tear it in the specific length and on the smaller pieces just put one piece, stretched horizontally at each corner. On the larger pieces, I had them--the students-- put one piece at each corner as well as another piece in the top-center to help support the additional weight of the bigger pieces.
So, once we had established our starting point both horizontally and vertically, I got up on the ladder and used a laser level. Because of the nature of this wall, it's a very tall wall, there was no active measure to the ceiling and the floor is uneven, so I couldn't use it as a reference point. So, the laser was really a key in allowing me to lay this out precisely. One of the things that I have gained over all the years of doing this is an ability to very precisely place things by my eye. I can generally get within a 16th of an inch of accuracy just by eyeballing things.
So as you'll see, as I go down here, I use a measuring device sometimes to establish distances, especially in the placement of the larger images, but a lot of the smaller ones, you'll see me put in position without measuring at all. So finally, we worked our way down the wall, the last few pieces were hung, and the students were able to stand back and for the first time see this assemblage of work in a coherent whole, elevated to a great level by all their hard work and our attention to detail, and presented in a manner and in a scale that I don't think any of them had really experienced before.
I know visitors and parents alike are always stunned by the professional quality of the photography exhibition. I think the matting helps that in some ways, but really, my goal with the matting and the hanging of the show is to really direct the viewers' attention, the quality of the work that these astonishing students have created in the two short weeks we have with them. One of the other real joys as an instructor is it's often this point in time that we get to meet the parents of the students for the first time. And it's something we're always grateful for, an opportunity to talk about the promise and the challenges of a life in the arts, and also about the individual gifts and abilities of the students that they have so graciously put into our care for the two weeks.
The responses I have had from parents over the years have been truly astonishing, and it's also been really delightful to see the success that several of our graduates have gone on to achieve particularly in photography. I have several former students that are working successful professionals in the field.
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