Kendall Messick and his fleeting glances on Bogotá streets

For the first time in Colombia, American artist, photographer and filmmaker Kendall Messick is presenting Visión Ciega at the Museo Casa Grau. “Blind Vision” consists of a series of bold and mysterious images of people Messick captured on the streets of the capital, and, with plenty of fleeting glances, the images blur the lines between subject and observer while asking a question: “What does it mean to be seen?” The exhibition is also a homage to Bogotá – a city Messick first came to in 1985 when he won a scholarship to study Latin American literature at Los Andes University.

“I didn’t speak Spanish, and my family in Colombia didn’t speak English, but we established a relationship so deep that I really felt at home,” explains Messick. “Living in Bogotá was one of the most important experiences I’ve had in my life. And looking back, I realized that Bogotá was the beginning of my life as an artist, and that’s why I decided to do this project. I am very excited to present this work in Colombia.”

The inspiration to create Visión Ciega came in 2014 after Messick rediscovered a short story he wrote as a young student for one of his literature classes at Los Andes. The story was based on a dream which he believes was tied to his experience as a gay man living in a conservative Catholic country in the 1980s. Having to keep a portion of his life “compartmentalized” from his Colombian host family, he asked himself, “do people really see me? Or do they see this idea of me?”

Messick spent five years taking photographs in La Candelaria and other neighborhoods of the city. “I would go to the streets when the light was perfect, and someone would attract me for some reason or another – maybe their gesture, what they were wearing, where they were, who they were talking to if they were alone,” Messick says. “I’m always looking for these moments where the magic happens.” Going further, he adds, “It’s the idea of feeling something by looking at someone from behind, and you don’t even know what their face looks like, but you nonetheless feel some emotion.” The artist hopes that when visitors view his work, the images resonate with them in a personal way.

During his three-decade art career, Messick has exhibited in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, and the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, DC. He has also created four major multimedia art projects, including The Projectionist in which he photographed and filmed former childhood neighbor, Gordon Brinckle, a film projectionist who meticulously constructed a fully functional, miniature version of a grand movie palace in his basement in the 1930s. In the project, Messick captures Brinckle’s fantasy world, including his architectural plans, drawings and artwork. The theatre was removed and reconstructed to travel with the exhibition and function as a place where the public could enjoy Messick’s documentary. “Celebrating stories that would otherwise go unheard is something central to a lot of my work,” concludes Messick.

Museo Casa Grau – Calle 94 No. 7-48