By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter
It has taken me awhile to warm up to this current “Rarified Light” exhibit currently on display at the Gary Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. “Rarified Light” is an Alaska traveling photography show put on by the Alaska Photography Center each year, and it has been around for many years. In days past, it was more edgy and involved more photography-based mixed media than it does now, and it was much easier to be wowed by the imagery.
My first thought upon greeting this exhibit was that the juror (they are different each year), Cig Harvey, has a thing for people, and for their hands. Some of the portraits are especially engaging, like both of Michael Conti’s selections, “Riley” and “Enzina.” And Lauren Holmes’ “The Next Generation” is “loaded” with meaning, capturing a small Native boy on a coffee table with a big gun and looking like he’s ready to take the world on, while elders sit in the background.
I thoroughly enjoyed the four selected works by Ryota Kajita, from Fairbanks, square photos from the “Ice Formation” and “Snow Garden” series, as they are tight shots of some of my favorite wintertime imagery in Alaska, handled cleanly and professionally, and with a great sensitivity.
In Lauren Holmes’ “Urban Sled Dog,” an old woman with white hair and heavy mascara sits outside on her wheelchair in the road, talking on a phone and looking angry. A sled dog sits behind her on the chair, and the soft and sensual tree-filtered light is an interesting contrast to the severity of each of their expressions.
The very green “Myth of Me,” by Janice Parsley, caught my eye, and the vignette treatment enhances the work nicely. Sunlight sparkles just on the top right of the image, turning the delicate and scant leaves of the trees into fairies of a sort.
Laura Avellaneda-Cruz has hit some psychological chords with “Things We Leave Behind,” and the shifts in contrast and
tone in linear blocks across the image give the feeling of both a passage of time and also layers of meaning and possibly even planes of existence. A seemingly mundane cabin shot becomes alive with meaning and potential story lines. The solitary wheelchair on the deck is both ominous and comforting, as is the wide expanse of land the busy little structure inhabits.
I also was drawn to the especially sacred feel of “Altar of Stone and Light” by Mark Stadsklev, and the otherworldly effects of rain on the car window in Douglas Yates’ “Road Trip,” a subject I’ve shot many times but never quite encapsulated so perfectly.
Our own Rick Cupp got in with the nostalgic “Memory Lane, Selma 1959,” Rachel Lee has two pieces, “Black Hand” and “Rear View Mirror,” and Sue Biggs has two pieces as well, “Norm’s Shop” and “Deep Illumination,” which I’ve spoken about in other articles. “Deep
Illumination” remains one of my favorite works of hers, and I just get more and more excited to see the imagery she brings to us.
It seems to me that this exhibit may be a bit overcrowded, and that one could cull at least three different shows from its offerings. One could simply be called “Faces and Hands,” one might have a title such as “True Alaska” (in which I would definitely include the very humorous “-31F” by Nathaniel Wilder and “Office” by Clark James Mishler), and the final would be simply a more honed and edited show with much more space on the walls to let all of the works be better acknowledged.
Zirrus VanDevere is the exhibits and cultural coordinator at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center. She has bachelor’s degrees in fine arts and education.