Photography captures our world in a truthful way like no other medium can.
However, the works of three photographers – Ed Freeman, Jennifer Scott and Rose Werr – on view at Spokane Falls Community College’s Fine Arts Gallery showcase the many diverse ways photography can be manipulated, altering reality to present ideals.
In his series titled “Urban Realty,” Los Angeles photographer Ed Freeman acts as editor, deleting the overcrowded, under-planned aspects of unsightly urban landscapes from his photographs.
He transforms elements of urban chaos – from fast-food restaurants to warehouses to freeway interchanges – by cleaning them up, taking them out of context and placing them into pristine, digitally altered landscapes of their very own.
A Pizza Hut fast-food restaurant sits low on a simple, dark field, its reflective red roof and bright white siding gleaming under a heavenly sky, framed by perfect clouds and a brilliant overhead sun.
Singled out from a cluttered urban landscape, the familiar building looks like a precious jewel.
“I’m endlessly intrigued with the idea of taking something mundane and unremarkable and glorifying it,” Freeman said in an e-mail.
“The original Pizza Hut (that I photographed) was somewhere in the endless, ugly urban sprawl of Los Angeles. … L.A. looks pretty much the same no matter where you park your car. There were parked cars, trash on the street, buildings left and right and behind, just like you would expect.”
Almost half of the restaurant was covered up in his original photograph, blocked from sight. Freeman digitally replaced the unseen side of the building by copying the visible half, flipping it and pasting it over the covered side.
“What takes the most time is retouching everything so it’s absolutely perfect, but leaving in a few well-chosen flaws just to confuse the issue,” he said.
Freeman’s photography has been published internationally and in more than a dozen books. His work includes landscapes, deserted desert buildings of Southern California, a surfing series shot on Oahu’s North Shore, abstracted figures, and stunningly graceful nudes – both above and under water.
Also a musician, Freeman’s artistic talents run deep.
Transparency is one of the most interesting aspects of Jennifer Scott’s work. When light has the ability to shine through an image, it projects qualities of life, hope and beauty.
In much of Scott’s photographic work, she resurrects old objects – quirky mementos from estate sales, antique dolls with missing or broken limbs, and items which belonged to those who have since passed.
“My work resides in a paradoxical world of the corporeal and the ethereal,” Scott, who has a master of fine arts degree from Washington State University, says in her artist statement.
“I work intuitively within ideas of life, death, decay, time, memory and rebirth. The trace or gesture of the photograph has always interested me, and it is this which continues to be at the heart of my work.”
Scott photographs the found objects in color. Digitally, she manipulates the images and tones the color down to barely a trace, sometimes adding a tone like sepia.
She then overlays it with textured images she’s taken – cracks in sidewalks, peeling fences, scratches, rust, “anything that catches my eye,” she said – creating distress and aging the photograph.
When her image is complete, she transfers the prints to Plexiglas, laying an image on both the front and back surfaces. Working while it’s still damp, she peels the matte paper from the acrylic and the image is transferred, with some tears and “happy accidents” that add to her process.
The transparent works on clear acrylic are mounted several inches out from the wall, on wooden bases that keep them upright, enabling light to pass around and through them, imbuing them with mystery.
Wearing a bright cerulean silk scarf, red wool jacket, striped blue and purple dress and tall gray boots, Rose Werr lectured to the crowd in the SFCC Student Union Building lounge on Jan. 8.
The artist, who has always had a fascination with clothing and putting “crazy colors together,” has woven some of that into her photography and performance art.
Now living in Indianapolis, Werr is a former SFCC art student and Spokane native. She said the installation workshop class she took from SFCC instructor/gallery director Tom O’Day got her started in performance and installation art.
In one of her first performance art pieces, Werr wore a white nylon skin – a body suit she had sewn – and posed onstage like a sculpture, lighted from behind with the lights shining in the viewers’ eyes.
When she began moving, the viewers jumped back. At the end of the performance, a photograph of her in the skin was all that appeared on stage.
Werr said that she created the piece because it was the best way she could imagine to present the skin she had made as a work of art.
After her lecture at SFCC, Werr presented a performance art piece in the Fine Arts Gallery. She gave a touching monologue that spoke of memories, time, seasons and moving on. Each time she appeared on stage from around a gallery wall, she carried an old leather suitcase, from which she’d pull out “memories” – symbols and motifs, including a dress that she changed into.
A sequence of digital photographs from her series, “Blink,” flashed on the wall behind her, capturing Werr’s eyes fully open, in mid-blink, and closed, in a symbolic gesture of the passage of time.
On the walls beside her were digital images, mixed media, self-portraits and photographs that brought the works together in cohesion with the performance. Those remain on view in the gallery.