Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Filters and Masks: The PB Taylor Library Continues Its Select Art Exhibits

By Joe Nalven

After a 2 year hiatus with the departure of Mark Elliott Lugo, the Pacific Beach Taylor Library began anew with its having substantial art exhibits. The first exhibit was West Coast Drawing that ended on May 9th. 

The Digital Art Guild has followed up with a juried exhibit. Filters and Masks that runs through July 31st.

The exhibit catalog is available online and in hardcover. (Nb. The percentage of art exhibits that document the show is low. The Digital Art Guild has made a dedicated effort to document many of its exhibits:  To Send Light Into the Darkness, Cross-Pollination, Homage, and Urban Legends and Country Tales.) 

Unity of Theme / Diversity of Aesthetic 
One path to crafting an art show is to allow each artist to select their own work (with or without a juried or curated process). Another path is to propose a theme. Often, the theme is simply a veneer for marketing purposes. At other times, the artists seek a meaningful connection with the proposed exhibit's theme.  Given the ingenuity of individuals, such connections make for wonderful surprises for the audience as well as for the other artists in the exhibit. 

This exhibit is abundant in surprise. Part of the surprise can be found in the dual level of thinking required for contemporary art in digital media. 

Parenthetically, the same could be said for the innovators of earlier art genres -- impressionism, pointillism, cubism and the like. It might be heretical for one to opine that this is less true for those plying those same paths; after all, there has been an acceptance of these aesthetics. At the inception of these genres, artists and their critics engaged in pitched verbal battles of how art ought to be done. Now it is hard to imagine a criticism, 'that would have been good except that it is an impressionistic painting.' 

Perhaps it is not so much the style so much as the toolsets. Digital toolsets often result in precise imagery. Is that a 'bad' thing? I recall Mark Elliott Lugo saying at a meeting in preparation for the first SIGGRAPH art exhibit in San Diego (2003) that digital art looked "too highly rendered." 

Consider the art work below of Dolores Glover Kaufman, Michael Sussna and Henry Heerschap. There is an aspect of perfection in the lines, color and texture of these images compared to the messiness of paintings or pastels (see the work below of Kira Carrillo Corser and Lee Zasloff). 

This objection is becoming increasingly passé, especially as some venues embrace the reality of digital media. This is especially true in photography, less so in painting.

The theme of the exhibit plays upon the social and cultural reality of how are perceptions filter what we see, hear, taste, smell and touch and how we and others wear masks that disguise our thoughts and attitudes. At the same time, digital media employs tools that are called masks and filters, as well as other tools that transform, adjust color in spectacular ways, allow for multiple layers of varying opacity, and the like. For those artists employing digital media, the dual layered meaning offers more than the traditional palette. 

A Sampling of the Participating Artists
Kira Carrillo Corser  /  The Music Beneath the Mask
Kira Carrillo Corser:  Making, wearing and photographing masks has fascinated me for 25 years and for years was hidden from public viewing, Now, I know it feeds my soul and gives me connection on a deep level. In photography, if you don’t show a real face, you can shift the viewer into a story, a metaphor for some experience or shared perhaps universal emotion. In my images, masks hide or expand some element, ranging from; those I made symbolizing the dark side of creativity to hundreds of windows shut, hiding lives in Venice where masks are one of the city’s icons, yet once outlawed because people wearing them daily became deceptive.

Michael Sussna  /  Purple Mountain Majesty
Michael Sussna:  These images are all from my “astral architecture” series. I use Ultra Fractal to create my images. I then use Photoshop to enhance brightness and contrast. Occasionally I significantly alter images in Photoshop. The astral architecture images feature major modification. They invoke otherworldly structures and scenery despite being built entirely with mathematics.

Dolores Glover Kaufman  /   Anybody’s Guess 
Dolores Glover Kaufman: For my own purposes I have chosen to exploit the computer's inherently transformative powers. It is, for me, a form of artistic alchemy. I work in series using a single photograph as 'parent' and call the resulting images 'Transmutations' as the parent photograph becomes completely transformed into a series of completely different iterations. While steering the process using a quantity of parameters, my main focus of interest is on the hidden meanings and associations that begin to emerge. Working with the computer I strive for an expression of this medium that is uniquely my own. If I had to use one word to describe what I seek with my art, I would have to say that it is 'essence'. Essence as presented in this series is the spiritual life of women. 

Henry Heerschap  /  Spherical Union
Henry HeerschapI discovered digital infrared photography seven years ago. I was immediately drawn to how it enabled me to look at familiar objects in a completely new way. Stripped of the usual expectations of color and tone, I found myself forced to consider texture, shape and form. This was especially true of plant life – flowers, tree, even produce. Simple, everyday objects became a form of abstract art when captured via infrared.

Lee Zasloff  /  Sort Of Close Friends
Lee Zasloff:  Sort Of Close Friends was originally painted using acrylic on canvas. Ultimately, I took the face on the right and transformed it digitally to tell the story of two different species trying to communicate. I saw this work as a metaphor for how much difficulty, in this age of rapid communication, we have actually communicating. I used dramatic contrast, a luscious, high color painted palette and flat color and pattern areas to create drama. To me, what's interesting in this piece is the combination of the original conventionally painted face and flat painted pattern areas combined with the digitally transformed face. In thinking about my life experiences, the areas that have consistently interested me are color in all its magnificent presence and the mesmerizing affect of faces. Like newly remembered songs, color, as seen through the filter of our life experiences, affects how we view everything. It creates mood, it can create joy, it can revive, it can exhilarate. On the other side of the coin, the infinite variety of facial expressions, memories writ large on these faces and my creative ability which can change, warp, transform, reform, objectify, age, make fascinating, mysterious, unrecognizable, those are the areas that interest me when I'm creating or recreating my versions of faces. 

Participating Artists
Ron Belanger, Charlie Anne Breese, Kira Corser, Celia Durand, Joan Everds, Ursula Freer, Henry Heerschap, Valerie Samuel Henderson, Kris Hodson Moore, Dolores Glover Kaufman, Marc Kitaen, Kat Larsen, Beverly LaRock, Kaz Maslanka, Joe Nalven, Sfona Pelah, Jill Rowe, Renata Spiazzi, Mel Strawn, Michael Sussna, Pasha Turley, John Valois, Michael Wright, Lee Zasloff,

The juror for the exhibit is Chantel Paul, a curator at the Museum of Photographic Arts. 

Reception at the PB Taylor Library Art Room      Photo Credit:  Ron Belanger
The Venue:  Pacific Beach Earl & Birdie Taylor Art Gallery
Mark Elliott Lugo, former art critic with the Evening Tribune, began the well-respected art exhibits at the Pacific Beach Earl & Birdie Taylor Library (now simply, the Taylor Library) in 1997.  He worked on the elements of the art gallery at the new downtown San Diego Public Library before retiring in 2012. 

Christina Wainwright, the Taylor Branch manager, has been coordinating these new exhibits until the central library creates a centralized application process for this and all other library branches.

Note:  Joe Nalven is a founding member of the Digital Art Guild and a participant in this exhibit. 

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful and insightful article! Joe, you are a jewel in the art community sharing your knowledge and love of digital arts, history, and more.