Using the term "blurred" in conjunction with photography is typically not considered a good thing, but "Rarefied Light," the annual statewide juried photography show, is not a typical photography exhibit.
While the show does seek out technical photographic craftsmanship, it has become best known for the artistic and experimental bent of the pieces it accepts, which may not always have sharp focuses or otherwise conform to what some people consider to be the ideals of straightforward photography. One of the main draws of the show is seeing how artists find new ways to blur the lines between traditional and contemporary imagery.
This year's exhibit, on display at Kenai Peninsula College, is no different. The pieces selected represent a range of subjects, approaches and technical processes.
Some pictures, like "Stones in a Stream" by George Provost which, as the name implies, is of rocks in a stream bed with water coursing around them were made with an eye toward designing and executing a shot that is beautiful to look at.
Other photos land more in the content category, like "Burn Victim, Chena Hot Springs Road, Alaska," by Kate S. Wool. Though the photo shows good craftsmanship, what is perhaps more noteworthy is the sentiment the image conveys. The shot depicts a person wrapped in bandages from head-to-toe standing in an area of woods that has been destroyed by a fire.
More common in the show, however, are pieces that blur the lines between image-driven and content-driven categories.
"Yulunga (Spirit Dance)" by Lisa Ballard combines photography and painting.
Marty Hapeman of Soldotna said her piece, titled "Not An Exit," isn't content-based and wasn't planned out to create a certain image. Instead, it came about through an accident.
The piece combines two images that came from video stills Hapeman shot at the Kenai Ward's Cove cannery. She printed one image accidentally, then printed another upside down on top of it to see what it would look like and liked the results.
"It made absolutely no point whatsoever, I didn't even come up with a point afterwards," Hapeman said. "It was totally process driven. I was just enjoying the imagery and the little mistakes that happen."
Though she sometimes does undertake a project with some statement or sentiment in mind that she wants to convey, most of her work comes about through experimenting with imagery to come up with a piece that is intriguing.
T.S. Alvarez focuses on a face in "Aqua Vision."
"I really love that," she said. "It's more of a dada thing; it doesn't really have to make sense."
Natasha Ala Johnson of Kenai was the only other Kenai Peninsula photographer to be accepted in the show. Her piece, called "Trunk and Torso" is a black and white print of a female nude next to a tree trunk.
"I think that it is an excellent black and white photograph because it shows a fascinating comparison and contrast of form and texture between the female figure and the tree trunk," said KPC photography professor Jayne Jones
Johnson was not available for comment.
Hapeman was one of several artists in this year's "Rarefied Light" show that made use of computers and digital photography.
"There is quite a presence of digital pictures this year, more so than last year," said Celia Anderson, gallery director and art professor at KPC. Anderson said she is excited by this trend, since both introduction to digital photography classes offered at KPC filled up instantly.
"There is a huge, huge interest in digital photography right now," she said.
Not only is there greater use of digital media in this year's show in general, but digital media is being used in different ways. This is one of the ways the show blurs the line between traditional and contemporary imagery, a trend that Jones finds interesting about the show.
"That's definitely a this year kind of thing," Jones said of the new uses of digital imagery in the show. "Last year the computer-generated imagery looked it. You could tell that things had been done."
"Stones in a Stream" by George Provost is one of 50 pieces in "Rarefied Light."
That isn't always the case in the show on display this year. Some pieces, like Hapeman's, are obviously computer-manipulated. The digital nature of others, however, are only given away by the tags that say they were printed from a computer.
Jones said this indicates to her that an increasing number of photographers are using computers to do work that has traditionally been done in darkrooms. That doesn't mean traditional photographic techniques have disappeared, however, they are just being used in different ways.
Provost's "Stones in a Stream," piece, for example, is a contact print a photo printing technique that used to be commonly used but now is considered a more alternative method, Jones said.
Another draw of the show Anderson and Jones noted is the inclusion of mixed-media works, including two photos by Lisa Ballard that include painting and a fiber-photography piece.
"There's quite a variety, although not quite the same variety of last year," Anderson said.
"Rarefied Light" is sponsored by the Alaska Photographic Center and makes only four stops on its statewide tour Fairbanks, Anchorage, Kenai and Cordova.
It is on display at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at KPC through Feb. 3.
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