Category Archives: Sky

Anna Von Mertens – Aurora


Anna VonMertens, Aurora, hand-dyed cotton on wooden stretcher 54 x 100 inches, on view until May 31, 2014 at Elizabeth Leach Gallery

Aurora is vivid and saturated in color. But rather than being flat and graphic, the cotton surface gives it an interesting depth and vibrancy. It shimmers and floats or wobbles, like its namesake phenomenon. Taken together the show – Above, between and in – is pleasingly odd. The dyed cotton pieces are inspired variously by the aurora borealis, aura photography (which recalls medical imaging technology and images that register differences in temperature), and “patterns left behind from the artist’s nutritional juicing” (which look a bit like Helen Frankenthaler’s abstractions). The work feels like an experiment (and a successful one) in finding visual and conceptual inspiration in all sorts of places: the heavens, unseen energies, and waste.


Chris McCaw – Sunburned GSP #428 (Sunset, Sunrise, Arctic Circle, Alaska)

Chris McCaw, Sunburned GSP #428 (Sunset, Sunrise, Arctic Circle, Alaska), 2010
Unique gelatin silver paper negatives
On view at Portland Art Museum (Dusk through Dawn), Dec. 21 – Mar. 16, 2014


Sunburned GSP #428 (Sunset, Sunrise, Arctic Circle, Alaska) is a beautiful and shocking triptych of photographs, at once meditative and violent. Part of McCaw’s Sunburn series these photos are actually unique images made by directly exposing photographic paper. McCaw explains that by placing “the paper in my film holder, in place of film, I create a one of a kind paper negative.” With a long exposure time, the sun has burned an arc across the three photos. For me most unsettling and interesting is the contrast between the peaceful seeming, atmospheric landscape and the burn that cuts through it. McCaw is keenly interested in the history of photography and I suspect he’s aiming to call our attention to the relationship between beauty and what might be seen as the violence of photography which fixes time and turns moving light into static images. But it also strikes me that there’s a real playfulness (both intellectual and physical) to these photos. After all, McCaw admits: “My favorite part is watching smoke come out of the camera during the exposure and the faint smell of roasted marshmallows as the gelatin cooks!

Raymond Meeks – Big Corral, August 2005, Montana


Raymond Meeks, Big Corral, August 2005, Montana
On view at Charles Hartman, SHINE: Winter Group Exhibition (January 2 – February 28, 2014)

Sometimes the night feels both intimate and vast. This is certainly true in Raymond Meeks’ small photo (8 1/2” x 5”), Big Corral, August 2005, Montana. Trees, two standing and one fallen, line three sides, while in the center there’s an entry to the deep vastness of the night sky, dotted with bright stars. It also strikes me as an experiment in seeing at night and a challenge to the viewer: stop and look awhile and see what you can see. At first the photo appears uniformly dark and impenetrable, but as you spend some time with it details and contrasts snap into focus. I’m not sure how the photo was made, but it looks old – silvery and gray and small. And there’s something refreshing about that and the way it beckons you closer to look and be illuminated by its many shades of gray.

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