Janet Russek, Nevada Wier and Alan Pearlman.
VERVE Gallery of Photography Presents
Janet Russek – The Tenuous Stem
Nevada Wier – Invisible Light: The World in Infrared
Featured Artist: Alan Pearlman – Santa Fe Faces
Opening reception: Friday, September 27, 2013, 5–7 p.m.
Book signing: Saturday, September 28, 2013, 2–4 p.m.
Exhibition is on view through November 2, 2013
JANET RUSSEK - The Tenuous Stem
Longtime Santa Fe resident, artist and gallery owner Janet Russek brings together a new book, The Tenuous Stem, and photographic work in her book for this VERVE exhibition. The collection of fine art prints arose from a period in the artist’s life when she suffered “one of her darkest moments,” the profound near-simultaneous losses of her mother, Esther Goldberg, and her mentors Beaumont Newhall and Eliot Porter. Janet set out not to grieve their loss but to pay tribute to their legacy as a way of expressing her gratitude for their support and inspiration.
Her first camera for this work, a 4 x 5 studio camera, was given to her by Eliot Porter. Janet started the series in her own home, using only available light and a large-format camera. The subjects were, in the beginning, still life images of ripe fruits, vegetables and flowers in the photographic tradition of artists such as Weston, Penn and Mapplethorpe. These striking black-and-white gelatin silver still lifes of squash, garlic, carrots, beets, turnips, peaches, and onion skin are at once graphic, tactile, sensuous and mysterious. A number of images in this early period are found floating in vases that anticipated and may have been an inspiration for Janet’s subsequent figure studies of pregnant women.
Janet’s floral collection of still lifes includes the cover of her new book, Orchid, 2001 as well as other equally beautiful still lifes such as Tulip - Lying Down, 2002 and Stem, 2000 from the I Ching series. Janet’s tribute to her lost ones through this period of time was a solitary, tranquil and reflective pursuit.
Ten years into the project she was beckoned to photograph “bellies,” her Pregnancy Plates series, which share a likeness to the ripened melon and life-giving fruit in her earlier work. Unlike those quiescent objects, these images are those of eight young women in late pregnancy. This series is entitled Beautiful Vulnerabilities. These are intimate nude images, sometimes a little disquieting, but also a political statement about the female living within America’s contemporary societal norms in the 21st century. Contemporaneously with the Pregnancy Plate series, Janet also undertook making antique doll portraits. These pale and delicate figurines are juxtaposed against a stark black background. The doll images express our vulnerability, as children, adults and seniors, focusing on our human frailties.
Russek’s Memory series, the closing chapter in her book, are images of iconic nostalgic objects out of her past, memorabilia from her parents’ era. They include portraits of a chess set, corsets, gloves, shoe brushes, shoe trees, stockings, a hat, a coat, a manual typewriter and a suitcase. She photographs these selected mementos out of her past and treats them with the same aesthetic sensibilities she had for her earlier still lifes. Janet Russek’s tribute to her parents and to her mentors is a photographic metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life and its cycles. All of her work in this exhibition and in her book, The Tenuous Stem, document nature and the natural processes.
Janet Russek has and continues to capture her images using natural light with a large-format camera, and all the prints are black-and-white gelatin silver.
Janet and her spouse, David Scheinbaum, have collaborated on two books, Ghost Ranch: Land of Light (1997) and Images in the Heavens, Patterns on the Earth: The I Ching (2004). Janet’s most recent book isThe Tenuous Stem by Radius Books (2013), Santa Fe. In 1980, Janet and David founded Schienbaum & Russek, Ltd.
A Booksigning for Janet Russek’s Tenuous Stem will be held on Saturday, September 28, 2013 from 2-4pm.
NEVADA WIER - Invisible Light: The World in Infrared
Nevada Wier, a Santa Fe resident, is an award-winning photographer and instructor specializing in capturing images from the remotest corners of the globe and the cultures that inhabit them. Her journeys have taken her throughout Southeast Asia; to India, China, Nepal and Central Mongolia; and to New Zealand and South America.
Nevada has had two previous exhibitions here at VERVE Gallery: A Nomadic Vision: 25 Years in January 2008. Her first show was a retrospective of her first 25 years as a photographer. Her Outer India exhibition in 2010 focused on images of the cultures found in the remote areas at India’s borders.
Nevada brings a completely novel perspective in her images from this new body of work, Invisible Light: The World in Infrared. This is how she describes the work:
Our visual familiarity with the world we live in is limited to colors in the visible spectrum. Beyond what our eyes can see lies the iridescent world of the infrared (IR) spectrum. Six years ago I began exploring the challenge of making the invisible visible: photographing unusual places using the unusual, haunting light of infrared. The resulting photographs are truly images in a different light.
In the 1930s Kodak developed emulsions that were sensitive to infrared light. Black-and-white infrared film was the popular choice. With the advent of digital cameras, recording infrared light expanded with creative possibilities. Digital cameras are so sensitive to infrared light that manufacturers have to place a filter in front of the sensor to block infrared light from spoiling regular photographs. By removing this filter and replacing it with one that blocks most of the visible light, the photographer is able to record near-infrared light with a bit of visible, deep-red light. The result is a surreal image with a bit of color, usually shades of blues and amber with occasional magenta.
It is often difficult to predict the colors that emerge from infrared photography as they are determined by the reflection and absorption of the light and the differences in temperature between an object and its environment. Skin tones are usually pale and unblemished, eye color changes, foliage becomes white and iridescent, and sometimes one is able to see details under fabrics that are unseen in visible light.
Photographing with IR light has different complications from using visible light. The sun is the primary source of infrared light; thus, the best infrared photographs tend to be captured in direct sunlight or bright, open shade. IR light has a longer wavelength, coming into focus at a different point than visible light, so it’s difficult to predict exactly where the focal point will be in an image. As with all my images, I crop sparingly and never change any content. Yet processing and printing an infrared image requires a deft understanding of technology in order to bring forth the subtle colors within.
Thus, Nevada combines her favorite subjects, tribal cultures in the remotest regions of the planet as seen in an invisible light. A newly released VERVE video features the peripatetic Wier and her uncanny ability to make the closest of friends of total strangers. Her role as a photographer is ”to come in close and make an image that is evocative of their culture. However, I’m not a social documentary photographer. . . . What I’m photographing is what is beautiful in the world.”
Nevada’s images in this exhibition capture her world in a truly different light. The use of infrared light for the image of the uniformed Indian camel trader, Rajasthan India, Camel Trader (2010) is at first an eerie sight. It appears as if it is an unfinished painting with just the beginning pigments. One has to look diligently until one’s mind’s eye adjusts to the dusty mauve-colored cloudy sky, the blue-grayish line of camels, and the trader’s slightly yellowed tunic with mauve headpiece. Making sense of these unusual colors forces the viewer to commit to image content, to focus and look more carefully—not to see the print as it might look in color, but to understand its subject matter and appreciate its composition. By abandoning color, Nevada has forsaken photographic realism so as to see the world in a more subjective way. She shows us this exotic realm as a complex of ideas. Nevada directs the observer’s eyes to the key areas in the print and then leads us away and back from the camels and to the trader. It is not as if the camels are striking a formal pose for this market portrait; rather they behave as faithful spectators at a football match or as guests at a banquet table. Meanwhile, the trader strikes the pose of a refined British field marshal. In his turban, uniform, staff, bare legs and loafer shoes, he is juxtaposed with the hobbled rhythmic vertical camel legs and bare two-toed feet. The driver’s cane is the only item in the photograph that bears its natural color.
As has been the case with Nevada’s work, her composition is a narrative. Her image content is always enticing and the composition interesting in itself. Thus, her image compositions have pattern, structure and narrative, be it the dancer on stilts, the two young Buddhist monks seated with their umbrellas on the temple steps, the wagon driver, the young monk on the undulating temple parapet, or the Icelandic horses. Nevada’s work is pleasing to the eye and a constant affirmation of the joy of life.
Nevada shot this series with a digital camera and her prints are archival pigment prints.
Nevada Wier’s work has been published in National Geographic Adventures, Geo, Islands, National Geographic, Outdoor Photography, Outside, and Smithsonian Magazine. Nevada is a fellow of the Explorer’s Club and a member of the Women’s Geographic Society. She was the photographer for Land of Nine Dragons: Vietnam Today (1992.) Her current book in progress is A Nomadic Vision. She instructs at photographic workshops for the Santa Fe Workshops, and she leads custom photography tours with National Geographic Expeditions.
ALAN PEARLMAN - Santa Fe Faces
The Featured Artist category of our submissions allows an emerging artist the opportunity to have their work shown to a larger audience via the internet and in the gallery for a shorter duration of representation than our typical stable of artists. Santa Fean, Alan Pearlman, VERVE’S featured artist in this exhibition, entitles his work Santa Fe Faces. “The story of a place is written in the faces of its inhabitants,” he writes. He is perfecting a contemporary cultural history of this community. Inspired by August Sander’s “physiognomic image of an age” in his photographs of his German countrymen over a century ago, Alan Pearlman sets out in his quest for the soul of Santa Fe. He searches out and finds representatives from the three emigrant groups that settled this community and are the source of its “ethnic and cultural diversity.”
As a portraitist, Alan’s goal is to capture a faithful representation of the sitter’s likeness. Portraiture by its very nature is built around compromise between the artist and his subject; it involves the direct collaboration between the two. Thus, for the most part, Alan’s subjects appear as they wish to appear, as he believes that, who a person wants to be is partly who he or she is. Often the artist and subject will agree to set the subject within a specific context—an operating room, an art studio, a shop, a gallery—and the person is usually dressed to fit a part. Where a person wants to be photographed is partly who he or she is. Hence, these images are not photographs of unsuspecting subjects caught in an unguarded moment, but rather of persons revealing themselves, perhaps unknowingly, as they wish to be seen. It is noteworthy that irrespective of the camera’s location, each of Alan’s sitters is seen in an aspect of stern frontality—is serious—and in almost every image the subject’s hands are an integral part of the portrait.
Alan presents his subjects without any bias. He has been honest and respectful. The portrait is their mirror. These images are unequivocal and fair, humane and objective. He adroitly uses available light for these digital captures and produces beautifully rendered archival pigment prints.
His goal is to assemble a collective portrait of Santa Fe. His subjects, in this masterful portfolio, are young and old; Native American, Hispanic and European; and from all walks of life, genders, classes, ranks, trades, professions and types. His portfolio is what both typifies and unifies this community.
Alan Pearlman formerly was a clinical neurologist and laboratory scientist who studied the function and development of the brain’s visual areas. His self-training in photography began at age 13 and continued across many decades and genres. More recently he trained formally at Santa Fe Community College under several highly gifted and experienced instructors. Pearlman brings his lifelong fascination with vision to photography, the exciting way in which we suggest to others what we are seeing and what it might mean.
From a VERVE Gallery of Photography press release...