About the Exhibit
Humans display a marked propensity to separate or divide almost everything into discrete, often mutually-exclusive categories: yin – yang, good – evil, light – dark.
Perhaps this reflects our own brain, physically divided into two hemispheres; perhaps our gender dimorphisms, or our own twenty-four hour day, neatly divided into daytime and nighttime.
In reality, little, if anything, is cleanly divisible. Between day and night there is twilight. Between black and white are countless shades of grey. Even our own brains are capable of moving responsibility for some functioning from one side to the other when it becomes necessary due to injury. Even gender is not always cleanly divided.
For this exhibition I am looking at a bifurcation that has been steadily emerging in my work over the past decade. Much of my favorite work has focused on what is known as The Grand Landscape, not surprising given my life-long love of the natural environment, of tent-camping, hiking, and mountaineering. As outwardly focused work in this vein may be, I have also turned my metaphysical lens inward, producing at first what may be termed the intimate landscape – slices of the larger picture and from that worked into abstract expression.
Yet, I have difficulty sometimes in drawing a line between these two facets. Much of my work in the abstract has used flowers as a point of departure, but for this exhibit I have, in two instances, used ice crystals as the seed, and in another, olive oil floating on water, while in a third my willing subject was a friend dancing under-water (the first time I have used a human subject as the starting point toward abstraction). There is a study of the multi-colored leaves on a Ti plant, realistic enough in themselves, which I consider an abstract study in shape and color. Finally there is a set of adobe stairs, rendered in monochromatic black & white as a study of shapes and forms.
The four Wyoming landscapes are grand in every sense – the wild open West, long vistas, and rugged peaks. Where is the abstraction here? The two Hawaiian seascapes, while in some important senses mirror the Wyoming landscapes, tend away from the realistic and I have chosen images that begin to blur the line between representational and abstract.
Within this exhibition there are multiple dualisms, but also various continuums and sub-themes. I’ll leave it to the viewer to ferret these out.
A word about the titles is in order. Somewhere in working out the theme and variations of this exhibit I hit upon the idea of borrowing titles from musical works that have been important to me. The music of French Impressionist composer Claude Debussy has been with me since I first learned “Children’s Corner” in high school, and the impressionist nature of his music fit well with some of the ideas I am working out in the visual work before you. I have titled each photograph from a Debussy work, most of which I have had direct contact with either as a student or as a performer.
© John Ellert Photography