“How many discoveries have been made by accident,” once asked the monumentally popular science fiction writer and essayist Willam S. Burroughs.
Tybee Island artist Robert Claiborne Morris’ most recent exhibition “The Translucents” which is currently on display in one the cities most highly favored coffee houses, Gallery Espresso, is borne of his own accidental discovery.Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and dining newsletters
“I was in my office one day, reading the paper like I always do,” said Morris “and I was standing in front of a window. On page two of the paper was a picture of (former President Barack) Obama looking out over the ocean dedicating a park in Hawaii, but as I was looking at it the image was kind of moving around. I couldn’t quite figure it out, and I automatically reacted like I was in a digital medium trying to push a button as if it was on a screen."
"After looking at it for a few seconds and trying to figure out why the picture was doing this, I turned the page over and there was a picture on the other side of a military funeral that was bleeding in. Suddenly the image of the military funeral superimposed over Obama’s profile said more than the sum of their parts. So I cut the piece out, put it up to the window, shot it on my iPhone and manipulated the colors.”
“This discovery made me start looking at newspapers in a completely different way,” Morris explained, “every morning I was so excited to see what I was going to find that day. We’re always directed to read headlines and paragraphs on one side or the other but my question was what if maybe there’s something behind the paper itself that has more meaning than the crisis we’re in now? Where we’re basically a divided society and the newspaper is either echoing one side or the other. Once I started looking deeper, and looking behind what was really there, suddenly a lot of other images began to appear.”
“This image up here is titled “For Sale”, on one side there’s a simple Memorial Day sale ad but in the background is a military march or occupation. It makes you have to look at the narratives a little differently, asking, here we are on Memorial Day but what are we selling? Buried just a little bit behind the surface is what it’s all about.”
While combing the paper for hidden images became a daily routine for Morris, it took the artist almost three years to find enough images to show together.
“I made a rule where the photos had to appear in the days paper that I photographed them," Morris said. "The fact that two apparently disconnected images and stories could arrange that day one upon the other is random, or is it? Is there something about the way the world moves that tells us to look a little closer? To look a little farther beneath the headlines and see what’s really at work on this great planet. Maybe if people were just to take a moment, step back, and think a little deeper, then maybe we wouldn’t get tied up and pulled into all of that drama. If more people looked for beauty, and truth, and deeper meaning maybe we wouldn’t have a nation of blue and red."
"That’s another feeling I got when I was doing this series, the headlines were awful, it seemed like the world was coming to an end, and everyone hated everyone else but suddenly through all that there were these beautifully compelling images buried beneath it, art was there, in the most unlikely place to look for."