The Fall season opens with our biannual exhibition of work which challenges photographic presentation. Camera Obscured III: Mixed Media Photographs features the work of Elizabeth Ernst, Dan Estabrook, Deborah Luster and Dan Ragland.
Elizabeth Ernst photographs antique dolls, aged vegetables, medicine bottles and children's toys which are torn, cracked, or weathered due to neglect and time. These unnerving portraits serve as metaphors about Lupus and the effects it has on the body -- an illness the artist has been fighting with for more than twenty-five years. Through a cracked face or an imperfect still life, Ernst addresses the struggles of an illness whose effects are not always visible. Using acrylic paint on top of her photographs, Ernst creates photo paintings crackled with an antique patina most often associated with 17th century painters, as she tackles present day issues about health, aging and beauty.
Dan Estabrook creates stories about time. Working with 19th century printing processes -- salt prints, tintypes and calotypes -- he transforms body parts, objects and anonymous portraits into quiet, timeless stories about the moments between conversations, when silence is the loudest. Using and emulating early printing techniques, Estabrook makes visible the very physical materials of which photographs are made, attempting to transform anonymous imagery into personal objects. Through his work, we are reminded that volumes of information can be conveyed through nuance and subtlety.
Murder is not generally a subject in which most artists find themselves immersed. But twelve years ago, Deborah Luster's mother was murdered, sparking a photographic project which led her to three different state penitentiaries in Louisiana, her home state, as a means of healing and understanding. Photographing inmates against a black backdrop or in the fields, Luster captures the individuals housed behind the barbed wire and prison cells in a project called "One Big Self" . Cutting 5 x 4" aluminum and coating it with a liquid silver emulsion, Luster creates images which serve as reliquaries for these men and women whose cockiness, youth, bravado and shyness are imbedded in these pocket-sized contemporary tintypes. Through these images she asks us to "see beyond their crimes ... to suggest that our punitive models are as reflective of who we are as our reward system."
Denver artist Dan Ragland serves as his own model for his recent 24 x 20" ink jets prints which he paints and scratches. Creating psychological portraits of himself and his environment, Ragland taps into our dreams and fears, as he transforms himself from a lifeless figure to a man prowling a tenement hallway. In his newest pieces Ragland focuses the camera on himself and his body's transformation due to aging. Like John Coplans, he photographs his body without limitations, revealing the sags, wrinkles and landscapes that emerge with age. Through these pieces we witness the evolution of the human body and its ability to transform regardless of efforts made to retain our youth.