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A Philosophical Look at the Photographs of Elizabeth Matheson


Retired philosophy professor Deborah Fitzgerald, Ph.D., will present the community lecture “A Philosophical Look at the Photographs of Elizabeth Matheson” Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 4 p.m. at Upstairs Artspace in Tryon. This will be a free community event in association with the gallery’s current exhibition UNCOMMON: Elizabeth Matheson Photographs 1970-2018.


“… to make you see, that and no more is everything.” is the epigraph in one of Elizabeth Matheson’s books of photographs,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “But, we might ask, ‘What does it mean to see?’ We will explore two very different philosophical answers given to that question by Immanuel Kant and by Ludwig Wittgenstein, and the impact those answers would have on our viewing of the photographs of Elizabeth Matheson. In the course of discussion, we will also look at how those disparate ways of seeing might cause us to connect her work with other artists.”


Dr. Fitzgerald has a doctorate degree in philosophy and has taught at Rutgers University, Ohio State University, Furman University, and Wofford College. Having spent much of her life exploring museums and galleries, her area of expertise is the intersection between philosophy and contemporary art. Dr. Fitzgerald draws upon her extensive familiarity with the contemporary art scene in New York, as well as that of Europe. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, she has lived in Manhattan, Berlin, the Loire Valley, and California, before settling in North Carolina. She has written about the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the artists Damien Hirst and Mark Tansey, among others. In past years, she hosted the “Philosophy of Art,” a series of lectures at Upstairs Artspace.


Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Born in Königsberg, Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics have made him one of the most influential and controversial figures in modern Western philosophy. Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language. From 1929 to 1947, Wittgenstein taught at the University of Cambridge.


UNCOMMON is a survey of more than 70 images drawn from Elizabeth Matheson’s 50-year career ranging from her early vintage gelatin silver prints to her stunning self-portraits and contemporary large-scale color work. Among her many accomplishments and recognitions, in 2004 Matheson received the North Carolina Award for fine arts, the highest civilian honor given by the state. The exhibit is scheduled to close Friday, Dec. 1, 2023.

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