555 Gallery is pleased to present The Human Diorama, a solo show of Bear Kirkpatrick’s recent photographs, installations and moving portraits including an in the gallery photo shoot experience with live models, mud, bugs, grasses and landscape projection.

The exhibition will include works from the series Early Settlers, clothed mostly, portraits, of early American settlers, portraits of Kirkpatrick’s own forbearers in their rich history of puritan ancestry, the series, The Old Ones, and The Human Diorama.

This madness to hazard contact with the wild is constantly acted out in the art of Bear Kirkpatrick. His project is to experience and question what it means not merely to bide time in the worldly state, but far more actively and intimately, to have and to hold an only world, unto death, but in the expectation of new living creatures of awful energies. Kirkpatrick's art, from its first conception to the full arrival of its finished form, explores the ongoing adventure of creation one must take up and sustain in order to inhabit a world of one's own, the sole world worth inhabiting."

~Brian Kubarycz, University of Utah

Kirkpatrick constantly meets the challenge of bringing us the wild yet ethereal image. He defines his imagery as evidence…. documents of past and present human psychological states. His dedication to research of human experience has created an opportunity for gallery guests to dwell on life as he interprets it. Via photography, projection, audio/video, painting, drawing, and an extraordinary live photo experience Kirkpatrick’s vision brings us into his wild world.

I believe we carry with us into this life more than simply the codes for the present iteration of our limbs and eye color and liver size.  If we carry inherited physical and behavioral traits, wouldn’t we also carry inherited traits of consciousness?   We are all a learned thing - an ever-gathering and ever-adjusting animal.  It is those traits that I use my camera to find, if only for 1/200th of a second.  They are the ghosts of presence and memory, the vestigial elements we carry within and about us as invisibly as spirits. 

~Bear Kirkpatrick  



Bear Kirkpatrick © 2014

The human Diorama

Bear Kirkpatrick




Saturday, June 27 5 - 8 PM


Live, Human Diorama Photo Shoot  With The Artist And Models

SATURDAY, JUNE 27   1 – 3 PM

View Reviews of The Human Diorama Below


Bear Kirkpatrick © 2014

Bear Kirkpatrick © 2014


JULY 1, 2015

Imagine this: realizing the full complement of your storied past – biological, sociological, psychological – in a photographic work of art. This intriguing, unconventional and truly boundless idea has proved irresistible to Bear Kirkpatrick, who has been pursuing it with multidimensional passion. You can experience the rich fruits of his labor at his solo exhibit “The Human Diorama” at 555 Gallery in South Boston through August 1, 2015.

It all started with casting a somewhat outlandish, if logical, query: if we inherit our physical traits genetically, why can’t other historic traits be embedded in our DNA? Kirkpatrick hunts for the spirit of an ancestral past that he suspects may be personified in the carnal, psychological and environmental settings we inhabit today. His collaborative exploration with photographic subjects is organic, even visceral, wherein Kirkpatrick encourages them to adopt their most rudimentary selves by stripping away the modern trappings of clothing. Then, offerings from the earth, sea and sky are introduced by applying layers of mud, feathers and other forms of nature to subject and surrounding alike. This ritualistic exercise encourages Kirkpatrick’s subjects to explore and embrace the whole of their past and present identities. And it is quite the happening, played out most recently at the opening event for this exhibit at 555 Gallery on Saturday afternoon, June 27th. There was a great turnout but, if you missed this, evidence remains in the form of muddy handprints from each of the subjects on one of the gallery walls.

When he initiated this undertaking, Kirkpatrick had his subjects assume the characters of historic figures, such as Charles Willson Peale, or illustrate events like The Wreck of the Hollandia, appropriating famous wall portraits to project onto his sets and subjects. As the work progressed, Kirkpatrick’s vision grew to encompass other allusions, like the erotically graphic Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife, the most famous “shunga” piece by the same Hokusai now being exhibited at the MFA, Boston (suffice it to say, you won’t see anything like this there.) These multi media installations feature a photographic work surrounded by several one-of-a-kind objects – like the rattlesnake’s tail, an object of fear in “Leigh: The Mockingbird’s Nest” – that serve as highlights and clues to the photograph, enriching and contextualizing it. These newer works endeavor to reveal something of the sitter’s unique background and incorporate photographic sets created by Kirkpatrick himself – as in his almost life-sized “Human Diorama”.

Now children have entered into Kirkpatrick’s lexicon, adding a unique dimension to his intense search for the origins of self. Rather than gleeful innocents, these youngsters are soulful, their guileless gazes, arresting. In fact, Kirkpatrick has employed the aptly named “Sage” to advantage in the development of his latest project, “Moving Portraits”. A small, darkened room of 555 Gallery plays host to a 5-minute loop of “Sage”, set before a rolling field with moody skies. Kirkpatrick has created a soundtrack that combines musical segments, wind, thunder, songbirds and bugs to complement slowly shifting changes in the frame: subtle motion (eyes blinking, chest breathing), coloring and de-saturating, brightening and darkening, the sharpening and softening of focus. It is yet another incarnation of Kirkpatrick’s imaginative journey. A trip fantastic.


JULY 19, 2015

Viewing photographs and videos by Bear Kirkpatrick reminds me of a magic show. I know there are tricks behind each sleight of hand, but because the performance is so adroit, surrendering to the fantasy is easy. Kirkpatrick also has a family lineage that traces back to an amalgam of heretics, puritans, judges, and witches. Opposition and conflict are literally in his blood, and he’s made them an intrinsic part of his creative process.

The Human Diorama (2015) sets the stage for this show at 555 Gallery, on view through August 1. Two large female figures are head-locked to resemble a pair of fighting antelopes. With their heads hidden behind a single shock of blond hair, it looks as though it could be the id struggling with its superego. Similar psychological battles are at work in the series Hierophanies I and II. Kirkpatrick photographs female friends and acquaintances in remote, uncultivated locations. The addition of artificial light against a dark and moody landscape creates a heightened sense of theater, where figures morph into mythological versions of themselves struggling toward a more primal existence.

For the largest group of portraits, titled The Old Ones, head coverings and thick layers of clay on naked torsos become a canvas on which Kirkpatrick embeds allegorical imagery around a pristine face. His post-production handiwork is so skillful the results are seamless. Most of the imagery comes from 16th- and 17th-century paintings, like saints and sinners from The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch or a wintry Dutch landscape by Hendrick Avercamp. Recently, he began using his own landscape photographs – of barren trees surrounding a vernal pond, for example – rather than borrowing imagery from paintings. There is a lot to look at, and parsing through the iconography is part of the pleasure of this work, which invites viewers to get lost in a parallel reality.


JULY 16, 2015

555 Gallery is currently host to a photography exhibit that goes beyond the present to explore the depths of human nature. In “The Human Diorama,” Bear Kirkpatrick, has brought together portraits and other pieces from his many series to show how people interact with — and adapt — to the natural world.“We are all a learned thing — an ever-gathering and ever-adjusting animal,” Kirkpatrick explains in his artist statement. “It is those traits that I use my camera to find, if only for 1/200th of a second. They are the ghosts of presence and memory, the vestigial elements we carry within and about us as invisibly as spirits.”

These portraits, as the name of the exhibit suggests, are Kirkpatrick’s response to the dioramas he was fascinated by as a kid, but they are displayed, for the most part, on the body of his subject. Now, instead of creating images that explain how groups would interact with a specific environment, he creates a diorama focusing on how the individual instinctually adapts and grows with its surroundings. “Art can be a tool of discovery, it can use science, it can explore,” Kirkpatrick said in a recent interview. “There’s an aesthetic realm to the image, but what else is there?” Just as people have evolved to have different instincts, Kirkpatrick’s methods of creating these dioramas have evolved. In the beginning, subjects would be wrapped in cloth revealing only their face, to place them directly into a well-known painting that hints at how humans interpreted their environments at the time of its creation. This method then moved onto Kirkpatrick covering his models in clay and sticking objects to them such as seeds and other plant materials. This brings an equal focus on the model’s extravagant coating and the painting juxtaposed on them, moving on from interpretation to direct interaction.

In his newest portraits, Kirkpatrick has left paintings behind and uses landscape photographs that he has taken himself to place his models in, but also has moved from plant material to the next step in the kingdoms of life — bugs. “Ruari: Euchroma Gigantea” is one of his newest dioramas; it features a model covered in the bugs named in the title. The bugs are gathered on the neck completely covering it as if to show suffocation by the species. This dark feeling is enhanced by the landscape he is placed in which is dark, gray and raining as can be seen by the disturbances in the body of water behind the model. Along with the still life portraits, Kirkpatrick has also created video portraits. These videos are a mix of small bursts of video mixed in with edited photographs blended in a seamless way. The pieces are all shot with 4k cameras, the highest resolution currently possible, and come complete with a soundtrack to aid the ominous images. The most recent example of this is “Sage: Heterometrus Laoticus,” in which the model’s neck is covered in scorpions and placed in front of an ever-changing landscape. The viewer, at first, doesn’t notice anything specifically moving besides the slight motion of the model and the intentionally slowed blinking. As the video goes on, it becomes noticeable that the scorpions on her neck start to curl their tails in and out to match the changing light and weather of the landscape behind her.

Kirkpatrick’s stunning images shed light on how humans fundamentally affect and are affected by their environment in a way that’s accessible to observers of art and science alike. The growth and development of his concept provides a visible progression in the timeline of his work that upholds aesthetic pleasure since the beginning and leads to a hopeful future for his striking portraits.

This exhibit provides a glimpse of that timeline and is not worth missing for anyone interested in this brand of directorial photography that Kirkpatrick has installed at 555 Gallery. (Bear Kirkpatrick: The Human Diorama continues through August 1 at 555 Gallery, 555 East Second Street, Boston. until August 1. For more information, call (857) 496-7234.