Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Art Seen: Guilded age — Photo group exposes new show

The Kenai Peninsula Photography Guild is a diverse group of beginning or advanced, and amateur or professional, photographers. The majority of the members are from the Kenai Soldotna area, but they welcome new members from all over the peninsula and state.

KPPG is open to the public and designed to be a forum for people who are interested in all aspects of photography, from pinhole cameras to the advanced digital SLRs.

The guild was the brainchild of Greg Daniels and Pat Dixon and started in 1996. M. Scott Moon, Bill Heath, Greg Daniels and John Demske were also at those initial meetings and still remain active. Their annual group show is currently on view at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.

Some of the exhibited pieces give explanations in regard to process, materials and occasionally even intent. It is interesting to me, especially when viewing photography, to be made aware of the processes involved. It can often give me a richer sense of the work. The show would have hung together more fluently if this were a consistent element. I am quite impressed with the size of the exhibit, however, and can see that the Photo Guild is quite alive and well.

“Weathered Sunset” by Erik Massey captures the feel of the beach softening in the sunset. The planks of an old dock and, for that matter, the vividly purple Mount Redoubt in the background, seem as natural of an occurrence as the waves on the shore. I get frequent requests for more Mount Redoubt images at my gallery, and this piece does a nice job of presenting it in a nontrite manner.

I thoroughly enjoyed Traci Knudsen’s “Untitled — Palladium Print” for not only its visual interest, but because I just love “untitled” pieces that are actually titled. I have often used this whimsical practice. Perhaps it is the Dadaist in me.

Roy Shapley’s “Tidal Ice” is a great example of solid composition mixed with sensate movement. I feel solidly rooted in the sand, but dizzy with the movement of the water. It is a classic silver-toned black and white print, an old friend in an exciting new world of photography. The composition of “Untitled/Orchid” (there we go again! I love it!) by Brandi Petrey is interesting to me, but the digital technique seems somewhat forced. I guess I prefer to feel like the manipulated effect is a happy accident, like it seems to be in Clayton Hillhouse’s “Journey, Seward” and Brandi’s other piece “In Bloom.”

William Heath’s “Sunrise and Fog” has both ethereal and earthy qualities. The color is evocative of emotions one might feel while viewing the splendor of the scene. It’s hard to put a name to, but it’s palatable and somehow able to touch an inner chord. It is a photo that I could enjoy in my own home, with repeated viewings, like a visual meditation.

Sandra Sterling comes close to this effect in “Visions,” but I find myself distracted by the human subjects doing mundane things in the scene.

Mary Albright has also approached this effect in “Peaceful Evening,” which also has human subjects, but who are looking serene and suit the image better. I find myself wanting to crop out a large portion of the sky in order to approximate the feeling I get from the Heath piece, however. The scratches on the Plexiglas are also kind of distracting.

John Demske’s “Energy” is certainly filled with it, and the angle and lens distortion add to the effect. Printing on canvas creates a unique texture and I find myself wishing he had not glazed his pieces (put glass over them) but had allowed the canvas its due by leaving it bare. His other two works, “Heavy Snow — Six Mile Canyon” and “Winter Forest — Portage Valley” have equally interesting texture and would also do well without glazing.

“Waste Can II” by Rachel Lee (the youngest entrant and daughter of Joe Kashi) is a fantastic “grab” of mundane beauty. There are numerous shots in this exhibit of dewdrops on flowers, most of them interestingly composed and with nice plays on focus. None of them compare, in my mind, to a shot like this that can take you out of your predispositions and make you wonder at the beauty of absolutely common objects as seen through the eyes of an explorative photographer. Her “Burned Tree” is another intriguing work, but I find the inverted example displayed next to it to be sort of unnecessary.

“Tapeats Creek I and II” are sensual palladium process prints by Kristin Mitchell. There are a number of this type included, owing to a recent workshop locally. I find I want to climb inside of her images and explore. The rough edge created by the process is typically inviting to me, as well.

The abstraction quality in Joe Kashi’s “The Crossing’s Doors” provides delicious textures and understated colors. Genevieve Klebba’s “Inside the Tidal Pools” interests me, not only because of an almost archetypal split-shot effect (horizontal lines break the image almost directly in half), but because I discovered a bountiful goddess image in flesh tones reflected in the foremost tidal pool, which just plain old makes me happy.

Photo Guild meetings are usually held the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Interested folks can e-mail, or call Bill at 283-5015.

Zirrus VanDevere is a local mixed-media artist and owns Art Works gallery in Soldotna. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.

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