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Three Views: Beyond Human Experience

Three contemporary photographers show at USF

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Photography has become much more than the form of technology that it started as, or the territory of expression that it quickly occupied.

Through its temperamental and plastic nature, photographic representation has become a means by which humanity can see itself through new eyes and self-reflect in more immediate ways. The great photographer uses this system and tool for the full range of possibilities, giving us documentation of the horrors that we inflict on each other, as well as the gentle beauty of our own bodies and the natural world around us. In "Beyond the Human Experience: Three Contemporary Photographers- Luis Gonzalez Palma, Gabriela Morawetz, Holly Roberts" at the University of Saint Francis, we see three instances of photographers pushing far past the veil of reality, exploring the spiritual and psychological depth of the human figure as it contemplates and grapples with the sublime.

"These photographers are pushing the technical aspects and limits of photography," states Justin Johnson, USF Gallery Director/Curator, "I hope that the audience will have an intuitive experience of the work, interpreting the human experience of something greater described in these works through there own personal experience." This is not difficult thanks to the curation of the works, and the artists ability to draw the viewer in through compositional, contextual, structural aspects of the work, allowing photography to occupy a richer and more interstitial space between installation, painting, and other forms of art.

"This exhibition showcases three internationally recognized photographers that define the human experience as a visual language both figuratively and symbolically." Luis González Palma, based in Guatemala City, uses the gaze and body language of his subjects to bring to mind an existential struggle and paint in his subjects. His work is influenced by his “mestizo” heritage and directly speaks about the indigenous Mayas of Guatemala, an ethnic minority in Guatemala which has gone through a great deal of hardship, including periods of genocide. Gonzalez Palma's photography uses sepia tints to reference historical lessons and the timelessness of struggle, and he specifically leaves the eyes of his subjects white (untainted) to intensify their gaze with the viewer, amplifying that aspect of that age old phrase that "the eyes are the doorway to the soul". Gonzalez Palma says about his own work, that he is, "…portray(ing) the soul of a people".

Gabriela Morawetz, based in Paris, France, originally from Poland, is an installation artist who uses figurative photographs to describe the connection between sleeping and the human sub-consciousness and its resulting isolation.

This enticingly surreal work pays homage to the rich history that it comes from, with nods to Francis Picabia, Man Ray, and other European Surrealists, while simultaneously blowing past them into near cinematic installation experiences through the inclusion of printed mesh barrier laid over or suspended above the photos themselves. Morawetz's work is incredibly theatrical, breaking through barriers of the fourth wall of the image regularly. Morawetz creates these alchemical images produced through references to myths and spiritual mystery through the use of complex processes using our current technology, to create something more. Older pieces like "Sleeping Beauties-Awake II" with their surrealist components began to split the image between the printed image — which is the substrate that is built upon — and materials laid over top. In more recent works like the "Connected Isolations" series, the image is printed on both layers, and the piece must be viewed as both and in between the two.

Holly Roberts, based in the United States, is a photographer, painter, and collage artist who "manipulates her original photographs as canvases to describe unknown interpersonal realities that heighten the natural and sublime found in the world". Her images ask much of the viewer, but ultimately yields great rewards as well. Her work engages both our emotional and logical selves as we, as viewers, decipher the sometimes shocking visuals in her work and attempt to figure out what is paint, what is collage, and what is photography in the make up of these images. Roberts has also (expertly) taken away the composition of the camera itself. Unbound by the constraints of the object that makes her product, she is able to create images completely suited to the interdisciplinary nature of her work. "Big Girl" and "Sphinx" are both great examples of how Roberts splices together various forms of art as well as sub-conscious or surreal terms.

These artists all use photography and non-traditional media such as paint, collage, fabric, and metal to create formal and visual gateways into the mind of both the artist and viewer, allowing their unique views to flourish, all while not letting the digital media inherent to their images to become a crutch to their work.

In conjunction with "Beyond Human Experience", the Artist Spotlight Gallery includes a collection of photographs donated to the University of Saint Francis by local photographer, Stephen Perfect. This collection of photography comes from artists that Stephen Perfect had contact with over thirty years through his work as an artist and as a teacher. This focus on traditional and untraditional works of photography create a very strong and worthy overall experience. The University of Saint Francis should be proud of its attempt to include all of this work in its largest and most prominent exhibition of the year, kicking off its season of exhibitions.

For more Information:
"Beyond the Human Experience: Three Contemporary Photographers- Luis Gonzalez Palma, Gabriela Morawetz, Holly Roberts"
University of Saint Francis, School of Creative Arts
September 7-October 6, 2013
Opening, Sept 7, 6-9pm

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.