Artist sparks discussion with photos depicting ‘mysteries’

The Maxine J. Anton Gallery set up for the Brown Bag Lunch with John Foster, creator of the “Accidental Mysteries” exhibition.

Amy Reinhardt

Washburn University’s Mulvane Art Museum on June 10 sponsored a Brown Bag Lunch for the “Accidental Mysteries” exhibition. The event featured a tour and discussion with the exhibition creator, John Foster.

The Brown Bag Lunch took place from noon to 1 p.m. on the second floor of the museum in the South Maxine J. Anton Gallery.

Foster’s accidental, extraordinary snapshots are displayed categorically in various sizes on the walls of the gallery. For the event, there were 10 chairs assembled in the center of the gallery for the discussion.

Nine people joined Foster for the event. There was a variety of people who attended, including Elisabeth Warsinske, the marketing and membership coordinator for Americore.

“I really like the storytelling in an exhibit like this,” Warskinke said. “There is a potential story behind every photograph, which makes it more interesting. You, as the viewer, have to create the value behind the photos.”

“Accidental Mysteries” is an exhibition that has been around for 15 years. The exhibit includes ordinary, everyday photography discovered in a range of venues such as flea markets and garage sales.

Over the past 15 years, the exhibition has been displayed all over the country including states such as Boston, Missouri, California, Michigan, Memphis, Chicago and more.

The photos depict points in time through the 20th century. The snapshots show many different situations, ranging from a dog standing on its hind legs in a dress to a man positioned on top of an electrical light poll.

The event included an introduction by Mulvane Art Museum director Connie Gibbons, who invited Foster and his “Accidental Mysteries” exhibition to the Mulvane.

Foster talked with the group about his start in self-taught, outsider art and what he looks for in a piece for it to be accepted into his collection.

“I’ll go through a 1,000 photographs and may get 15 or 20 ‘maybes,’ and out of that group I may walk away and not find any,” Foster said.

The goal of Foster’s “Accidental Mysteries” exhibition is to carry out his vision of what he believes makes an extraordinary photograph.

“Sometimes the photographer comes upon the perfect alignment of form and content and snaps the shutter. At other times, accidents happen. Chance plays a part in both,” reads a quotation on the wall in the exhibition.

There is also a wall in the Joanna E. Harrison Gallery, in the lobby of the second floor of the Mulvane, where people can bring their own original snapshots. The “Topeka Found” collection will be available until Aug. 1.

“There are a few really good snapshots on the wall so far, but I can’t wait to see if people bring in more,” Foster said.

The next event in conjunction with the “Accidental Mysteries” exhibit will be from 6-7:30 p.m. July 14. The museum will show the critically acclaimed documentary “Finding Vivian Maier.”

Vivian Maier was a Chicago nanny who shot more than 100,000 photos during her lifetime. Maier was called one of 20th century’s greatest street photographers after her work was discovered in 2009.

Foster’s “Accidental Mysteries” exhibition will be on display in the Mulvane Art Museum until Saturday, Aug. 1. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

For more information, e-mail Julie Myers at [email protected].