Rarefied Light 2000, the photography exhibition now at the Kenai Peninsula College Art Gallery, highlights the artistic side of the medium.
These diverse images are neither crude snapshots nor clinical mirrors of visual reality. Through technical expertise and creative manipulation by the Alaskans featured, a picture captured on film becomes another canvas for expression.
People unfamiliar with art photography may be surprised by its versatility.
"Alaska's photographers continue to demonstrate the rich potential of this malleable medium for communicating ideas, emotions and aesthetic beauty," juror Barry McWayne, the curator of art at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks, wrote in his statement on the show.
He called the quality of the submissions "exceptionally high" and said selecting only 50 was difficult.
The result is a show with something for everyone.
"The Palms," silver gelatin print, Barbara Baugh, Anchorage
McWayne gave the best in show award to the "Postcards from the Past Kimono" by Anchorage's Carolyn Strand. Using a technique that allows printing photographs onto nearly any surface, she transferred old postcard pictures of exotic places onto cloth and incorporated them into a royal blue, pieced kimono. The combination of found photos and fabric art is both intriguing and fun.
Her companion garment, "Spirit Dress," uses the same approach with an Alaska accent.
Another piece in the show that tweaks international cultural images is Sheryl Reily's "Virgen del Guadalupe -- miss americas." The mixed media collage used computer modification as well as handmade touches. The result is a variant of the classic Mexican icon, combining the sentimental and the celestial. It was one of six pieces given honorable mention.
Silver gelatin prints seem to glow as if their subjects are emanating their own light. Other images have been reworked, drawn upon or layered in ways that transform them from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
"Greg," silver gelatin print, Paul Hansen, Anchorage
In some, the subject matter itself is mysterious. In Beverly Cover's "Io," Don Decker's "NOD" and Barbara Baugh's "The Fence," a viewer can puzzle over just exactly what the depicted objects are.
Other images are more conventional in technique but just as satisfying.
Desert landscapes, rock forms, sea and cloud, and the graceful, growing shapes of plants remind us of nature's perfection of form and light.
Overall, the show is more abstract than intimate, and the one subject that seems to be missing is the human face. However, it is not without people, especially some unusual and fresh views of the human figure.
"J.C.'s," ink jet print, Stan Jones, Anchorage
Texture plays a particularly rich role in these images: the textures of everything from sand to silk to human skin.
This also is an exhibit to transport a viewer to other places. Many images are fresh and compelling views of Alaska, but others feature exotic places such as Cambodia. And there seems to be a trend toward things Mexican.
The Kenai Peninsula is included, with a whimsical tiny view of Ninilchik and a handsome panorama of Tern Lake by Kenai photographer John Demske.
Gary Freeburg, who manages the college gallery, said he is impressed by this year's version of the annual show.
Denali's Other Side, silver gelatin print, Kevin Smith, Anchorage
"I think this is one of the nicest I've seen," he said.
The exhibition, sponsored by the Alaska Photographic Center, has been touring the state since September.
Rarefied Light 2000 will remain at the KPC gallery through Jan. 31. The gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
After leaving Soldotna, Rarefied Light 2000 will go to Homer at be on display at the Pratt Museum from Feb. 5 through April 15.
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