By David Brickman
It is appropriate that the exhibition Mark McCarty: Skin at Sage College of Albany’s Opalka Gallery begins with a self-portrait, because this show is as much about McCarty as it is about the many people depicted in it. Long awaited (McCarty’s last solo show – aside from a wonderful mini-exhibition of iPhone pictures that just ended at McGreevy ProLab – was in 2004), comprehensive (the show presents 35 pieces, 36 if you count the one that is, inexplicably, included twice) and focused (all the works are black-and-white portraits) Skin happened because Opalka Director Jim Richard Wilson recognized that it needed to happen.
McCarty has been making both personal and commercial photographs for over 30 years, and both have brought him considerable recognition. But the effort to mount a major art exhibition is easy to leave aside when you are dealing with clients, raising a family, meeting deadlines. So McCarty continued to make the personal work – that’s essential – but has tended to only show it in dribs and drabs, usually at one or another regional group exhibition.
Now, we have the opportunity to look at a broad and deep slice of those pictures – still limited to a particular long-term project or two, but a good choice was made to present a very personal segment of the total output, rather than a more diverse survey. It tells a deeply compelling story of lives written on the skin of those living in it, and of McCarty’s place amid those lives as participant, observer, and compassionate collaborator.