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Karen Garcia
The stoneware pot “From the Center of the Earth #3” by Jean Steele is displayed at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center as part of the “Intersecting Journeys” exhibit.

KPC faculty display their talent

Posted: August 18, 2011 - 9:35am
Taz Tally
The photograph “Sea Star Legs” by Taz Tally will be featured in Kenai Peninsula College’s upcoming exhibit.

Taz Tally made the switch from analog to digital photography at the very beginning, in 1984 with the advent of the first Apple Macintosh personal computer.

A clunky beige cube that sold for around $2,500 upon its release, the Mac had 128 kilobytes of RAM, a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, and a 9-inch black-and-white screen. Tally embraced and thrived in the medium of black-and-white photography — his influences include Ansel Adams and Edward Weston — and has since written dozens of books on creative digital photography.

“Color is wonderful, but it’s very distracting,” Tally said. “I love black and white work because it allows me to focus on texture and fabric and form rather than color.”

Kenai Peninsula College will feature Tally’s work in an upcoming exhibit designed to introduce art department faculty to their students. Tally is one of two new adjunct art professors who will be starting their work at the college this fall; the other is Jean Steele, who, like Tally, lives in Homer and also teaches at the Kachemak Bay campus of the school.

Tally, who has a doctorate in geology, spent several years as a university professor teaching geology, geography, and environmental studies. He currently teaches a Photoshop class at KPC and has been teaching creative digital photography at the Kachemak Bay campus for six years.

An avid hiker, biker, kayaker, and skier, Tally blends his outdoor athleticism, his interest in science, and his passion for landscape art in as many projects as possible, including in his book “50 Hikes on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.”

Tally’s new class is a first for KPC in that it is offered in real-time online. Students will interact face-to-face — albeit via a screen — with each other and with their instructor. Tally recognizes that there are certain challenges to undertaking such an effort, especially when it comes to critiquing one another’s artwork.

“It’s difficult to do that even face-to-face and not hurt people’s feelings,” Tally said. “And the intention is not to do that, but it’s one of the most effective methods to learn by. So there are both technical and communication challenges, but that doesn’t mean we don’t try to do it.”

Tally’s new colleague Steele will also display some of her pottery at the college’s upcoming art exhibit. A ceramics specialist, Steele has been playing with clay all her life. After leaning how to throw pots (shaping clay on a potter’s wheel) in high school, Steele moved to Oregon in 1976 and began selling her work at the weekend markets in Portland.

“It’s really interesting to have people come up and turn your pots over and watch their face to see if they make a grimace or if they like it,” she said of the experience. “It’s really a great way to learn.”

Steele moved to Homer in 1990 and opened several art studios there. With a degree in teaching already under her belt, she went back to school for three terms to learn how to hand-build with clay.

“A lot of people think of pottery just as a craft,” she said. “You can learn to be very good at throwing and trimming and making nice functional pots. Or you can think of your medium and your skills as a tool for artistic expression.

“That can still be in a mug, or a plate. But when you think of it as artwork, it becomes something a little more than just a functional piece to go in somebody’s kitchen. It has a little more life to it.”

Steele plans on displaying a stoneware mask called “Broken Promises” at the KPC show.

The opening reception featuring the art faculty’s work will be held Tuesday, Aug. 23, from 4:30 to 6 p.m in the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at KPC. The show will run through Sept. 15.

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