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Happy photography to you


The annual month-long profusion of shutterbuggery known as Atlanta Celebrates Photography (www.acpinfo.org) suggests that if a Sharks-and-Jets-style knife fight went down, Atlanta's photographers would surely cream -- if numbers count for anything -- the Painters, Sculptors and Installation Artists.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography has often suggested that quantity is more important than quality. In the past, the event hasn't always quite captured what is most exciting in contemporary photography. Instead, it has seemed to stuff the ballot box with work that serves to convince people that photography is art through sheer immersion in the form, as in "see, Atlanta Celebrates Photography."

This year's event is a little slicker in terms of its website and event guide, but it still sports the populist push-pin spirit of past events with its accessible venues and work. Downtown Decatur's Temple Gallery features a survey of women artists documenting the South, from Dana S. Kemp's precise read on native arcania like creamed corn and public prayers, to more expected evocations like an image of the Fox Theatre. Speaking of which, can we officially declare a moratorium on photographs of the Fox that reduce the city to a generic picture postcard? Please?

Momus Gallery is featuring an interesting mix of photographers through Oct. 31 in Play, including New York-based Tamara Rafkin, who takes moody images of abandoned playgrounds. And New York photographer Jefferson Hayman's exquisite, precise, retro photographs transform Manhattan into a film noir dream and give ordinary still life images enormous emotional significance. Hayman's distinctive work will be on view in a Thomas Deans & Company group show, In the Details, through Nov. 6.

Say what you will about some of the High Museum's "issues" (and I know most of you have a lot to say), but it knows how to periodically throw down a great lecture. Hungarian-born, 97-year-old legendary mid-century ceramics designer Eva Zeisel -- whose elegant, playful work is as synonymous with the era's sublime aesthetic as Charles and Ray Eames -- will appear at the High on Oct. 29 for a Q&A following the screening of a documentary about her work. And on Oct. 7, the High is hosting esteemed New York Times chief art critic Michael Kimmelman at 7 p.m. at Symphony Hall.

The High will also be the setting for a panel discussion organized by The ArtReach Foundation on Oct. 10 at 3 p.m. titled The Art of Healing: Children Traumatized by War. Experts in the field will discuss the use of art as a tool for healing, a topic sadly more relevant than ever considering events in Iraq, Sudan and Russia. One of the speakers is former Atlanta artist Traci Molloy, who works with child victims of 9/11 at a New York summer camp.

Always straining toward representation but stopping short, Julie Jones' precise ink-on-paper drawings can suggest the architecture of Antonio Gaudí, Joan Mirò, the illustrations of Edward Gorey, Laylah Ali and everyday objects like fish hooks and protractors. Jones says much of her inspiration comes from architecture, and it's not hard to see these careful drawings as a kind of blueprint for the sculptures she also has on display in Falling through Oct. 17 at White Space in Inman Park.

The fascinating, otherworldly tabletop-scale sculptures created by artist Dashi Namdakov (whose collectors include Uma Thurman and Russian President Vladimir Putin) are the product of the artist's origins in a remote Siberian village rooted in the shamanism and Buddhism of its Mongol ancestors. In his mind-altering solo show at Gertsev Gallery through Oct. 30, Dashi's insectlike women with deadly looking pyramid breasts, and squat, Buddha-like warriors suggest a marriage of sci-fi and Far East, like Kurosawa's Ran as interpreted by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Atlanta artist King Thackston, who died Sept. 5 from complications related to AIDS, had three of the greatest artistic attributes: great ideas, wit and skill. I first encountered the artist's audacious and hilarious work with his installation "The Wrong Side of the Tracks: The Darker Side of Model Railroading," a mock model train set featuring tiny lynchings, synagogue burnings and picket lines. The piece was part of the 1996 exhibition Gone With the Wind: The Fabrication and Denial of Southern Identity at City Gallery Chastain.

In an entirely different vein, but still illustrating his potent mixture of intellectual ingenuity and good humor, was Thackston's highly memorable 2001 solo show, The Deconstruction of American Icons, at the Swan Coach House Gallery. Composed of finely executed epic pencil drawings, and a mix of bitter nostalgia and humor, the work imagined the dismantling of the Lincoln Memorial, American redwoods and the Statue of Liberty. Those who knew Thackston personally, as well as those who knew him through his work, will certainly miss his unique presence in the city.


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