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Photography Exhibition

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The Gail Gibson Gallery just opened a new exhibit of three photographers on June 4, 2009 through July 11, 2009.  I get tired of verbally interpreting paintings and photography and sometimes just like to enjoy them visually, which I did this past weekend.  There’s plenty to be said about the work on exhibit currently.  Give some thought to purchasing a few prints this month.  Below is the press release from the gallery.  Freese recommends.

View Master is an exhibit of three artists, LORI NIX, GRACE WESTON, and JONAH SAMSON.  The common denominator for these artists is in their masterful fabrication of intricate 3-dimensional sets, which are then photographed and later disassembled.  The resulting works examine highly imaginative worlds, which illustrate humor, decay, and sexuality.

LORI NIX builds tabletop dioramas in a spare bedroom of her Brooklyn apartment. In her newest body of work, The City, Lori’s sets have become incredibly detailed as she creates scenes from an imagined urban environment that have succumbed to the nature of decay. Taking months to assemble, these dioramas show evidence of human abandonment, and take on a life of their own as nature slowly reclaims them.  ChurchLaundromat, and Botanical Garden are the latest additions to the ongoing series. 


Lori Nix, "Laundramat", 2009

Lori Nix, "Laundromat", 2009

Lori Nix currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, but spent most of her life in the rural Midwest.  Taking cues from the disaster movies of the 1970s and her memories of growing up in disaster-prone rural Kansas, Lori has blurred the line between truth and illusion with ‘in-house’ set ups and dioramas.  In her first series, Accidental Kansas, she recreated floods, fatalities, tornadoes, and insect infestations.  In the series Lost and Some Other Place, neighborhood sidewalks, city parks, and forays into the wilderness are reconstructed, playing out dark little dramas before the camera. 

Lori’s work has been exhibited nationally. Recent museum exhibitions include Picturing Eden, a traveling exhibition from the George Eastman House in New York, and Fresh: Contemporary Takes on Nature and Allegory at the International Museum of Glass in Tacoma, WA. Lori’s honors include a 2004 Individual Artist Grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and a 2001 Light Work Artist-in-Residence in Syracuse New York. Work by Lori Nix is included in the collections of the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA; Microsoft Corporation; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC; the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; the Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas City; Harvard Business School, Cambridge, MA, Progressive Insurance, Cleveland, Ohio and Fidelity Insurance, Chicago, Illinois.

 GRACE WESTON is a Portland photographer who creates narrative imagery with staged vignettes that combine humor, wit and psychological tension.  The constructed sets, built from fabricated and found props, are whimsical stages that address personal and universal dilemmas, joys and fears.  With the use of human and animal figures, her characters act out an internalized drama that often remind the viewer of a long forgotten nightmare or daydream.


Grace Weston, "Current Affairs", 2006

Grace Weston’s work has been exhibited extensively throughout the northwest. She was recently included in the 2008 Photography Biennial: Nine to Watch, Northwest Photography Biennial, at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA, curated by Scott Wallin.  Additionally, Grace was a recipient of a 2006 Individual Artist Fellowship and a 2009 Artist Career Opportunity Grant from the Oregon Arts Commission. She will use the later to travel to Madrid this summer for the upcoming Photo España’s Descubrimientos Madrid, a portfolio review and exhibition.  Grace is among the 70 photographers chosen from a field of 900 to participate in this June 2009 event.

 Photographs by Grace Weston are included in the collections of King County’s 4Culture Portable Works, Seattle, WA; the City of Seattle Portable Works, Seattle, WA; Portland Community College, Portland, OR; and University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and Erb Memorial Union, Eugene, OR.

JONAH SAMSON’s dark sense of humor and fascination with the macabre influences his recent body of work Pleasantville. His hand-assembled and painted sets of murder scenes and sexual encounters are born out of our cultures attraction to sex and violence as entertainment, and walk the line between humor and tragedy.  Works in this exhibit focus on the voyeuristic sex scenes; titles include Peeping Tom, Happy Trails, and F*cking.


Jonah Samson, "Fucking", 2006

Jonah Samson celebrates his first commercial gallery exhibit as a contributing artist to View Master, and will enjoy his first solo exhibit this fall at Chernoff Fine Art in Vancouver, BC.  Jonah has been writing, curating, collecting, and making art for over a decade. He is a contributor to the daily blog Cool Hunting, and his writing on photography has been included in several magazines across North America.  Jonah recently published a collection of his Polaroid images of couples kissing in a book called Kissing Pictures 1998-2008Tickl magazine will feature a spread of these playful and erotic Polaroids in their next issue due to be released in summer 2009.

Jonah currently lives in Vancouver, Canada with his French Bulldog named Beckett, and works as a family doctor focusing on inner-city health issues.  He is presently working on a new series of dioramic photographs called Noir, based on early 20th century crime scene photographs.


Written by Wes Freese

June 9, 2009 at 11:07 am

Howard House Exhibit

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One of the best photography exhibits recently on display in Seattle was Arthur S. Aubry’s beautifully composed images of various industrial objects.  Jen Graves over at The Slog said “no thank you” to “beautifully printed, immaculately composed photographs of colorful, abstracted industrial forms” because the world has far too many of them already, and favored vague images capturing desolate places that eschew any hint of composition, color or gradient of light and darkness.  Imagine, a photographer actually having the gall to employ composition, color and printing skill to create a photograph!

Actually, all I see lately are the boring photos Jen raves about.  I vote for the former and would advise local galleries to exhibit more photographs and paintings that evidence an artist’s craft.  As the art market slides, viewers and collectors want objects that rely more on talent and craft, rather than juvenile conceptual pieces that say nothing of import.  I vote for more images like Aubry’s, and quite enjoyed his photographs when I went to view them earlier this week.  Aubry’s exhibit came down today.  Seattle galleries would do well in this economic climate to exhibit more work based on craft and tried and true artistic tools in the creation of interesting visual images.



Written by Wes Freese

February 22, 2009 at 10:54 am

Images Of A Depression

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Jim Johnson over at (Notes on) Politics, Theory & Photography posted a photograph (above) featured in an on-line photo set at The Guardian, with the thought that such an image ironically represents America’s, and perhaps the world’s current economic climate.  It’s a striking photographic image, and when it’s regarded in context of the current worldwide recession and credit crisis it certainly could illustrate a paradoxical nature of our financial state amid a globalized world that could not turn off the high powered mechanized production spigot.  It also induces the familair pangs of seasickness if you stare at it for any length of time.

But it lead me to think back on Dorothea Lang’s famous Depression Era photographs, particularly her most widely known photo of a mother and seven children.  That photograph captured a prevailing national despair at that time.  The photo of rows and rows of automobiles above is absent of people, absent human emotion, absent any earthly organic element.  That’s not a criticism of the photo or Jim’s suggestion that it could represent today’s financial crisis.  The photo above is cool, sleek, repetitive, even visually garish in representing a failure of institutional systems of trade, finance and politics.  But where’s the human suffering?

The picture begs the question, how can a depression exist with so much stuff filling our existence?  What is an economic depression in our post-modern, globalized world?  What does it look like in art?  Does a depression today mean that a multitude of people have to go without Blackberry service and cable TV?  Perhaps a downgrade to dial-up internet service?  There are no bread lines now, despite over two million people losing their jobs last year, and I don’t know how many million people losing or abandoning their homes.  There currently is no glut in food supply that existed in the 1930’s during the dust bowl.  The good folks at Cargill and Monsanto have seen to that by genetically modifying and genetically engineering foods, and by doing their best to destroy local farmer businesses.

Where was the art world when our current credit crisis was taking place?  Down in Miami partying and buying overpriced artworks that will never appreciate, of course.  Art has often been found at the opposite polar spectrum from social realities in times of war or other hardships, especially in the twentieth century.  During World War Two and the Korean War painters were flying off into their ivory towers and making “pure” abstract expressionist paintings.  During the Viet Nam War, painters were burrowing themselves into minimalist dugouts, far away from the social realities of the time.  Where are the artists, particularly painters and photographers, who are representing our collective reality (if there is such a thing)?  Shepard Fairey has depicted the fairy tale of Obama.  Now who will illustrate the day after?  Or has art forever given up being an element of social influence?


Written by Wes Freese

February 7, 2009 at 2:19 am

Patti Oleon Paintings

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My favorite, favorite, favorite painter right now is Patti Oleon.  Her rich, visually succulent paintings are a sight to behold, not only for their stunning imagery and high contrast of lights and darks, but also the veneer of their painted surface.  This is what painting is at it’s best.  The physicality of their painted surface should be a delight for anyone, but most of all for painters who love the process of creating paintings.


Oleon’s nostalgic paintings touch on memory, time and the illusion of captured imagery.  Their seductiveness is unparalleled in contemporary painting. In a statement Oleon writes that her imagery is of “liminal environment(s), suggesting that even the most lucid presentation of facts is distorted, incomplete, provisional.”  Her work utilizes photographs of “hotel lobbies, period rooms in museums, spaces contrived to look habitable but resolutely lacking human presence” which suggest places within memory, that evaporate with time.   These stylized places transcend geographic location, that can’t be found on Google Earth or some GPS device, and seem more like a stage perhaps for some Stanley Kubrick purgatory or publicly ceremonial function.


Oleon’s work denies much of the history of Modern Art painting in the twentieth century, as if it never existed.  These paintings make Clement Greenburg and the whole New York School over the past sixty or so years seem childish, despite their claims to high art and mysticism.  These are the works that should be documenting the history of American civilization in the early twenty-first century, not the works being exhibited in the Whitney Biennials of the last couple of years.  Ours is a dark, highly stylized age, it’s citizens perceiving some American identity that no longer exists, while they look back trying to reclaim that which only resides in memory and can never return.  This is painting at it’s very best, if you ask me.  Indeed, Patti Oleon is one of the best painters in America right now.


Written by Wes Freese

February 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Michele Valdez Photographs

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Some nauseatingly vibrant photographs by Michele Valdez here.  Valdez photographs colored christmas lights then composes patterns of the lights in Photoshop to create abstract visual imagery, much like Op Art paintings.  The photographs bear on painting, which is confirmed by the fact that Valdez also creates paintings.  Despite the use of lights in the photographs, there’s a darkness to the images.  Day-glo plastic lights flicker and shine and create snazzy patterns, but the overall effect of the colors leaves one green in the gills.  A fitting tribute to urban modern life.


Written by Wes Freese

January 16, 2009 at 2:40 am

Painting and Photography

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A new selection of paintings on my Paintings page here.  These works bring together photography and painting to create an image that deals with both imitative depiction and abstract, gestural mark making. Despite a photograph’s capability for unlimited manipulation, it still is regarded as a faithful portrayer of reality.  But the paint on top of the image possesses a materiality that contrasts with the “reality” being depicted in the photograph.  Combining the two creates a hybrid that is visually challenging in many ways.  The act of wiping the paint across the photographic image is an aggressive motion meant to establish primary importance of painting over photography.


Written by Wes Freese

January 12, 2009 at 4:03 pm

David Maisel’s Library of Dust

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David Maisel offers up another jarring suite of photographs entitled “Library of Dust” on his website, and at Lens Culture.  His photographs of oxidized and rusted canisters containing the cremated remains of patients from a state run psychiatric hospital in Oregon, who died there and whose family never collected upon death, are a richly colorful, yet stark collection of images representing a bureaucratic cataloging nightmare.  A creepy and tidy response to death of people who most likely suffered from mental illness brought about by the complexity of modern life.  I think of On Kawara’s work, only real and without artistic pretense.



Written by Wes Freese

January 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm

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