Right Coast/Messengers

Right Coast/Messengers
Photographs by Susannah Ray and Kota Sake
Curator: Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock

The Lipani Gallery
July 10—October 10, 2019
Reception: November 13th, 5–7 pm
Fordham University at Lincoln Center
113 West 60th Street at Columbus Avenue
New York, NY 10023
 *The galleries are open from 9 am to 9 pm every day except on university holidays

Fordham University is proud to present a new two-person exhibition of photographs in our Lipani Gallery by Susannah Ray and Kota Sake. Upon immediate inspection, the images in Right Coast/Messengers by these two photographers could not be any more different in terms of content, style, process, or presentation. However, upon closer inspection, a certain resonance begins to emerge between the two bodies of work.

Both evidence a clear dedication to exploring and documenting their respective topics over an extended period of time. As well, each selection of photographs examines how we utilize our free time, pursue our pleasures, and engage with our passions and pastimes. On the most direct level, both bodies of work clearly have something to do with water; however, none of these possible interpretations quite nails their connection down solidly. This ambiguity should serve as an invitation to come to visit the gallery and see the individual bodies of work, as well as an enticement to ponder their linkages.

This exhibition could be seen as a classic summer gallery show aimed towards pleasing the crowds—in this case, with surfers and animals. Nevertheless, beneath the initial hook of breezy, summer reading are numerous aspects of a more nuanced and provocative nature.

Susannah Ray
Right Coast
In the fall of 2004, following my growing obsession with maritime weather models, cold-water wax, and 7mm neoprene mittens, I began documenting surfing in New York City. My life as I knew it had succumbed to my constant urge to surf, and it became clear to me that my photography would suffer from neglect if I did not begin to document the new passion that occupied most of my waking thoughts and many of my dreaming ones.

The project title, Right Coast, is a nickname for the East Coast that not only indicates its location on the continental US but also asserts an underdog's dreams of superiority. Surfing on the right coast, particularly in New York City's Rockaway Beach, lacks most of the lifestyle and allure of West Coast surfing. Yet making up for the dearth of good weather, consistent waves, and beautiful surf spots is a community that has a surfeit of heart, dedication, and soul. Or in a word, aloha.

In the fall of 2012, less than a year after I concluded this series, Hurricane Sandy devastated Rockaway Beach, forever altering the landscape and our relationship to the sea. These photographs have become a testament to halcyon days, to a way of life lost, and to a life regained.

Kota Sake
Chances are that at any given moment millions of digital pictures of unbearably cute animals are being uploaded to the Internet for viewing and pleasurable consumption. Second probably only to adorable baby pictures, cute animal pictures no doubt pervade our consciousness as we go about surfing the Internet, paying bills, and generating various status updates.

So, in looking at Kota Sake‘s traditional, gelatin silver photographs of animals one must ask why they seem so unfamiliar, resolutely not cute, and at times tragically strange. Considering that we are constantly exposed to such creatures online, in calendars, and in physical form at the zoo, it is an admirable achievement to transform something seemingly familiar into something otherworldly and mysterious.

Suspended in the netherworld of zoo tanks, these creatures glide, drift, sink, and loiter, isolated and mostly indifferent to our presence. There are no Technicolor creatures singing cheerful or cautionary songs for our education and pleasure. Theses creatures exist purely outside of our realm of understanding.


Susannah Ray
Susannah Ray lives in the Rockaways, a small peninsula on the edge of New York City bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Jamaica Bay, and JFK International Airport. This intersection of city and water is at the heart of her photography and extends her early interest in landscape photography, which she uses as a form of visual geography, rendering the complex interrelationships of place, people, history, and ideology.

Born in 1972 in Washington, D.C. Susannah Ray studied photography as an undergraduate at Princeton University and completed her MFA in 1997 at the School of Visual Arts MFA Program in Photography and Related Media. Her project, "A Further Shore," was exhibited in 2017 at The Bronx Museum of the published by Hoxton Mini Press, East London, the UK as New York Waterways. Susannah Ray has also had solo exhibitions at Bonni Benrubi Gallery and Albright College and been in numerous group exhibitions, notably at The Museum of the City of New York and the Queens Museum. Her photographs have been widely featured and reviewed in publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The British Journal of Photography, The Surfer's Journal, The Independent UK, and The Wall Street Journal.

Susannah Ray is an adjunct Associate Professor of Photography at Hofstra University and the Photography Program Supervisor.

Kota Sake
Born in 1973 in Tokyo, Kota Sake studied photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. He currently operates the artist-run gallery「studio 35minutes」and has had solo and group shows in Japan, as well as internationally.