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The American Gaze: An exhibit at Candela features an accordion book of photos taken during last year’s total solar eclipse 

click to enlarge Greta Pratt, “Homemade Eclipse Viewers,” 2017.

Greta Pratt, “Homemade Eclipse Viewers,” 2017.

Two older women in bathing suits stand along the shoreline in Virginia Beach, a colorful towel between them. Facing different directions, each peers into a cereal box — one Kellogg's corn flakes, one Rice Krispies — modified to allow viewing of the total solar eclipse.

"Homemade Eclipse Viewers" by Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Greta Pratt is part of a new exhibition and book, "One Day Projects: And Light Followed the Flight of Sound" at Candela Books and Gallery. It's the gallery's second collaboration with creators Eliot Dudik and Jared Ragland, founders of One Day Projects. The title refers to E.M. Forster's dystopian novella, "The Machine Stops," in which people become totally reliant on technology to deliver sustenance, convey information and even mediate relationships.

The goal of One Day Projects is to encourage creative dialogue by challenging artists to collaboratively produce and publish innovative projects within 24 hours. With its third collaborative artist book, the duo was inspired by natural wonder as well as the symbolic possibilities of the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21, 2017. The book, a limited edition of 150, features photographs by 52 artists and presented as a 30-foot-long, hand-bound accordion, is being exhibited alongside works by 23 of the artists.

Because the project revolved around a single day and how it affected people, it marked a change from previous book projects in which they'd taken the images. "We asked artists from all over the country, not all of them in the path of totality," Dudik explains. "It made for a diverse range of images." One particularly tranquil image is Tom Rankin's photograph of a woman — seated in a rowboat with her dog, wearing solar glasses looking up at the sky.

After contacting 65 photographers, the duo heard back from 55, resulting in more than 300 images that required a multistep process to winnow down. So while the photographs were all taken within a 24-hour window, per the project's intent, the editing and design of the book required several months.

Part of the goal with the One Day Projects is to speak to contemporary issues, but it wasn't until the editing process that Dudik and Raglund understood the connection.

"We felt like the images were expressing the temperature of our country," Ragland says. "We thought about how, on the day of the eclipse, everyone did the same thing: They stood together and looked up, with a sense of wonder, with a sense of togetherness, with a sense of natural beauty and with a sense of unity."

Bringing that point home is Matt Eich's archival pigment print, "My Daughter Observing the Eclipse, Charlottesville, Virginia," which was taken in the same park where days earlier the deadly Unite the Right rally had been held to protest the removal of the Robert E, Lee monument. Eich's young daughter, surrounded by adults in eclipse glasses, peers into a Cheerio box with the Lee monument in the background. "Only a week after that divisiveness, people were coming together to look up at the sky together," Dudik says.

With a nod to the subject matter, Candela founder and photographer Gordon Stettinius hung the exhibition in such a way that celestial photographs — clouds, eclipse, sky — are higher on the walls while terrestrial images are viewed at eye level.

The book is just as clever with a gold foil sun stamped on the cloth cover. Because of its accordion design, the book is covered in a clear Mylar sleeve which is stamped with a black circle to represent the moon. As you remove the book from its sleeve, the foil stamps suggest the passage of the moon in front of the sun. A limited run of 150 sold out within days, with the exception of the few copies they held back for the Candela show.

"I've come to respect these two as artists since we discovered their work," Stettinius says. "This is a conceptual project because they're performing without a net. That's definitely our thing."

"One Day Projects: And light followed the flight of sound" through Dec. 22 at Candela Gallery, 214 W. Broad St. candelabooks.com.

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