The Williams-Insalaco Gallery 34 at FLCC will open an exhibit of photography and accompanying poems inspired by the photos on Thursday, March 2.
The exhibit, “Keeping a Promise,” features photographs by the late Joe Ripperger with poems by his aunt, retired FLCC humanities professor Barbara Murphy. The title is a reference to Murphy’s work to complete the exhibit after Ripperger passed away in 2019.
Murphy will give a talk on March 2 from 2 to 3 p.m. and welcome guests at an opening reception from 4 to 6:30 p.m. The events are free and open to the public. The gallery is on the first floor of the main campus at 3325 Marvin Sands Drive. The exhibit runs through April 7.
“My talk will focus on the collaboration that was involved in the creation of the ekphrastic poems,” Murphy explained, referring to the term for poetry inspired by works of art. “I will also explain what happened when the project Joe and I started seemingly came to an end when he passed away and how the project evolved and continued.”
Murphy and Ripperger began talking about a collaboration in early 2019.
“I had taken a week-long poetry course at Writers and Books in January, and one of the instructors had asked us to write some ekphrastic poems. I had fun with it and thought it could be fun to collaborate with Joe,” she explained.
“He came to my house with his laptop and showed me some photos and sent me others. I wrote some poems, and he did give me feedback on those first few poems. I told him about an online journal called ‘The Ekphrastic Review’ and said that maybe we could submit something. He liked that idea. We also talked about how cool it would be to find a place in Rochester to exhibit his work.”
Joe, who had bipolar disorder, died by suicide in June.
“I wrote Joe’s eulogy and began to write poems about the experience of losing him,” Murphy said. “I asked his father for Joe’s hard drive and started working on the ekphrastic poems, obviously without Joe, but it seemed important to finish what we had started. I was amazed at the number and beauty of the photos.
“The writing that corresponded to his photos and the writing that reflected my grief turned into a book. As the book, after many revisions, seemed to be finished, I thought, ‘I’ve got to find a place to exhibit Joe’s work!’ That desire eventually led me to the Mental Health Association of Rochester.”
The exhibit was first staged last year at the Mental Health Association of Rochester’s office on North Goodman Street and then at the Joy Gallery on West Main Street in Rochester. Barron Naegel, director of FLCC’s Williams-Insalaco Gallery 34, attended the closing reception at the Joy Gallery and invited her to bring the show to the college.
“The purpose of the exhibit is to celebrate what he saw through his lens and to, in a way, keep the promise to find someplace to exhibit his work,” Murphy said, adding, “He was a sweet guy with a sarcastic streak. He loved taking pictures of many subjects, including his friends, baseball games, flowers, and downtown Rochester. He had a sly sense of humor, and, very importantly, he was always trying to better himself. Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at 16 or 17 began a lifetime of struggle, but his curiosity about the world and his camera were mainstays in his life.”
For questions about the exhibit or the gallery, contact Naegel at email@example.com or (585) 785-1369. The gallery is open weekdays when classes are in session (closed from March 20 to 26) and weekends from noon to 5 p.m.
Editor’s note: Barbara Murphy submitted one of Joe Ripperger’s photos and a poem in to “The Ekphrastic Review.” It was accepted and published in September 2019. Read it here.