‘Altered Reality’ at the Nester Gallery | ParkRecord.com
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‘Altered Reality’ at the Nester Gallery

Photography can capture the most lucid and clear-cut images but also lead a viewer into that surreal place between dream and reality.

With "Altered Reality," which will feature the photographic art of Vanessa Marsh, Debra Bloomfield, Nine Francois and James Sparshatt, the Julie Nester Gallery will exhibit that photographic dichotomy.

The exhibit will run May 27 through June 28.

The Park Record caught up with Marsh and Bloomfield during separate interviews and talked with them about their different, surreal styles.

Vanessa Marsh’s dreamlike memories

Marsh’s photographic career started as a subconscious rebellion against her mom.

"My mom is a still-life painter and I grew up with a lot of crafts and paintings around, but I think when I first started to explore how I was going to figure out the best way to express myself, I naturally gravitated to what my mom didn’t do," Marsh said with a laugh during a call from her home in Oakland, Calif. "While it was a turning away from my mom’s style in a way, she actually gave me the Nikon camera that I still use."

Marsh would drive for hours in her home city of Seattle, taking photographs.

"At that time there was no audience, but I felt this weird sense of freedom when I had a camera," she said. "I felt I was able to explore places and troop around in abandoned buildings in ways I wouldn’t if I didn’t have a camera."

Those memories have stuck with and inspired Marsh throughout the years.

"A lot of my art has to do with wanting to remember those places I explored when I was young and recreate them in a way that shows a nostalgia for the places," she said. "I’m combining that concept with the idea of how memories can change and applying the whole thought to the photographs. So, I’m making an image that looks real, by using elements of real landscape and false memory. The result is something that is dreamy and has an uneasiness, that, on first glance, looks real."

To accomplish that effect, Marsh first builds and paints models of buildings that remind her of the buildings she once explored, and then photographs them.

"Some of the models I build from scratch and a lot of the times I’ll find something in model train kits," she said.

One photograph in particular is called "House."

"It was a basic model kit I put together and altered to look like a haunted house I used to drive by as a kid," Marsh said. "The place doesn’t exist any more. The area is filled with tract housing now, so I can’t go back with my car, but the art I do allows me to go back and make an image that isn’t around anymore.

"I am a photographer because a photograph is my end product, but my process is more like a sculptor and painter," Marsh said. "So whether I wanted my mother’s aesthetic to wear off on me or not, it did."

Debra Bloomfield’s dream-filled abstracts

When Debra Bloomfield was in art school at the University of Colorado in the late 1960s, a teacher, whom she respected, whispered in her ear while she was painting and said, "You’re passionate about this, but I have to tell you that you’re terrible at it."

"I stepped back and looked at what I was doing and saw this six-foot-by-nine-foot canvas," Bloomfield said during an interview from her home in Berkeley, Calif. "I was standing three inches from it, with this teeny weenie paintbrush and thought, ‘Maybe there’s something to this.’"

Bloomfield tried different forms of art and can now teach any type of art class she wishes.

Still, she found her true calling when she picked up a camera in 1972.

"The camera set a path for me that I never moved off of," Bloomfield said. "I was lucky enough at the very beginning of my career to brush against some amazing artists, who are no longer with us. They gave me encouragement and support and I’ve never looked back."

Bloomfield’s theme has always been landscape, she said.

"I have always felt a sense of belonging there," she said.

"Four Corners," which was Bloomfield’s first monograph published by University of New Mexico Press in 2004, was the result of her seeing the land, as a metaphor for people and culture.

"It was a sociological project looking at who lives in the Southwestern United States, and the evolution of the land since the Hisatsinom, which is the proper Hopi Zuni name for Anasazi," she said. "After spending 10 years there, I found working in a minimal abstract way with the large vista of land desert and sky."

Those broad views, helped her move into similar, yet, different landscapes when she found herself at the ocean’s edge a few years later.

"Instead of desert and sky, the scene was transformed into water and sky," she said.

Bloomfield had visited the ocean after the passing of her sister, to contemplate life.

"My sister’s birthday and my anniversary is on the same day and I was at the ocean looking and thinking about life," Bloomfield said. "I started to walk away, and as I turned back, I looked and saw something. It was as if a curtain opened up and it kept my attention for seven years."

Many of the photographs that will be displayed at the Nester Gallery come from Bloomfield’s new book "Still," which is comprised of photographs taken at the ocean.

"When creating the works for ‘Still,’ I started working after the sun went down and worked throughout the night until just after sunrise," she said. "I didn’t sleep at night. I would look and photograph and sit and think. Then I would sleep during the day. I was taken with the stillness of night, but aware of the fact that I was being watchful and still myself in the process of making these images.

"There were times when I would look down and see something in front of me that couldn’t possibly be real," she said. "I had never seen the moon rise or the moon set and it was like I was living in the area between dreams and being awake."

While being able to display her art in galleries is always a career highlight, Bloomfield said nothing compares to seeing her art displayed at the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Cancer Research Center in New York.

"One of my images, a 40-feet-by-40-feet print, is hung where the women come out after being tested where they have to sit and wait for the results," she said. "So as an artist my work, and they don’t have to know who I am, is giving comfort to women during and anxious moment. That is probably is the most rewarding of anything I can ask for. It is even more appropriate given that my grandmother died of breast cancer and my mother has breast cancer."

"Altered Reality" will show at the Julie Nester Gallery, 1280 Iron Horse Dr., from May 27 to June 28. An opening reception will be held May 27 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is free.


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