Thirty-year-old photos of malls find new life at Peel Gallery
Peel Gallery’s current exhibition, “The Decline of Malls Across America” by Michael Galinsky, showcases photographs that transport audiences back to a now-foreign commercialized sanctuary — the mall.
The exhibition is open from Oct. 4 to Nov. 5, and the gallery hosted an opening reception on Oct. 13 featuring live music and screen printing outside.
The closing reception will take place on Nov. 5 from 3-5 p.m.
“It'll be a great opportunity to get insight into the work from the artist himself,” Lindsay Metivier, owner of Peel Gallery, said in an email. “Galinsky is a great storyteller — visually and with his words!”
The photo collection features everyday activities of mallgoers in 1989. Galinsky took the pictures for a project when he was in college and rediscovered them years later.
Galinsky said the collection went viral after he posted some of the pictures, so he decided to make a photo book. He has now published two books, “Malls Across America” and “The Decline of Mall Civilization,” using the decades-old photos and essays from contributing writers.
The opening reception was the first time Galinsky’s well-known mall photos were admired in a collaborative environment.
“The books came out, but there’s nothing like actually having a ton of images in the room together,” Galinsky said. “It was so exciting to just watch people. People stayed in that room for over an hour.”
Matthew Tauch, a co-director at Super G Print Lab, offered the live screen printing at the opening reception. Screen printing is a low-impact process that involves putting a stenciled image on thick paper.
He said that screen printing is portable and easy for people to engage with, and Peel encourages live art making at openings.
Tauch added he was printing an image of a camera to celebrate the Click! Photography Festival, a monthlong festival celebrating artists in the Triangle.
“Every October, Click! Photo Festival occurs and we try to align our October exhibition with the festival, making it photography-focused,” Metivier said in an email. “It just so happened that Galinsky's publication — the second edition of 'The Decline of Mall Civilization' — was planned to be released around the same time. It seemed that everything aligned so well that we would be really missing an opportunity to take advantage of such good timing.”
A Chapel Hill native, Galinsky has been involved with the Peel Gallery since before it opened three years ago, Metivier said.
“He seems to be really adept at community building and bringing people together,” Tauch said. “The whole night just felt like a collaborative sort of situation, which was great.”
Galinsky said he knew at the time his photos were taken that they would be more impactful decades later, as he noticed photo books are often comprised of older images.
“Thirty years later, these images spark your brain,” he said. “If you lived in that timeframe, a different part of your brain fires up, and it's not your current memory, but your past memory. All of a sudden you're living in that space, and it really affects people profoundly.”
He said the mundane aspect of the photos is what gives them strength. He added that it's important to have faith in your own work, as it may develop meaning over time.
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“Be present with what you do know and trust yourself,” Galinsky said. “If you think something is important, just do it. Don't worry that it's not going to pay off right now or that people aren't getting it.”