Tag Archives: Photography

From The Director: Into the Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

The three bodies of work presented in this exhibition are entirely different. Jasna Bogdanovska, Harry Littell, and Nigel Maister have each explored specific concepts through their imagery. Some are abstracted views of reality while others are a document of a specific time and place.

During the installation process of Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

During the installation process of Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Although each body of work is different, there is an overlap between them and a connection from one idea to the next. The name of the show Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar comes from my thinking about each of the artists and distilling their ideas surrounding the work into one word.

The Liminal #31 and #32 by Nigel Maister

The Liminal #31 and #32 by Nigel Maister

Unknown pertains to Nigel’s work and the way that he is investigating the relationship between the real and the imagined. He is using abstracted views of branches, leaves, and other flora as a way to depict the unseen. By pushing the values and colors of his images taken in the dark of night, he creates new worlds that are neither completely real nor entirely a figment of his imagination. The Liminal #31 and #32, part of a larger series (The Liminal) show two sides of his intentions. Both of these images may exist in a dream but one is more like an overload of saturation and visual stimulation, while the other could be a foreboding scene from a nightmare. The push and pull between being overstated and understated is one of the interesting things about the series as a whole and it makes for a varied experience when taking in the exhibition.

Farm drainage tile, Romulus by Harry Littell

Farm drainage tile, Romulus by Harry Littell

Overlooked came to mind when thinking about Harry’s project. He is investigating the upstate NY landscape and the small towns that we live in, drive through, or remember from years past. His photographs sometimes document a rather lifeless subject in a way that brings a depth of possible meaning or emotion. In Farm drainage tile (Romulus), a simple bundle of drainage tile sitting in a field becomes many things all at once. It is a monolithic structure, it is a stand-in for a large bale of hay typically seen in a field, and it is also waiting to go in the ground for its intended purpose. Without Harry finding beauty or an interest in this image, we may have just driven by and not paid any attention.

"Palimpsest" by Jasna Bogdanovska

“Palimpsest” by Jasna Bogdanovska

Unfamiliar connects to something in Jasna’s images. She is investigating her own identity, a dual identity. Born in Macedonia but living in the United States, she found the exact geographic midpoint between her two homes in the town of Grindavík, Iceland. This place that was once unfamiliar to her now became the symbol of her dual identity and the springboard for a series of photographs. Through a layered symbolism, she explores personal stories and ideas that relate back to this. The image pictured above, Palimpsest consists of a book resting on a rock in a shallow body of water. The meaning of the title has to do with a change occurring to something (i.e. a piece of writing or a place, perhaps even a person) with the original still showing through after the revision. In a way, this could be a self portrait. The book may have originally been written to describe a person who was born and lived in Macedonia. Pages inside have then been erased and rewritten, describing someone who now lives in America. The book is resting on a rock, which may represent Iceland, the place that is in between.

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

So, even though Jasna, Harry, and Nigel make completely different work, the overlap between them is present in this exhibition. I would suggest seeing it in person to find your own parallels and connections. Stop in before the show closes at the end of the month!

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

Installation shot: Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar

See Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar at Main Street Arts through Friday, March 30, 2018. You can also preview the exhibition on Artsy: Artsy.net/mainstreetarts.

Inside the artist’s studio with Harry Littell

Exploring near Horseheads. Photo by Roger Freeman

Exploring near Horseheads. Photo by Roger Freeman

I live in Ithaca, NY, where I’m a teacher (Tompkins Cortland Community College) and fine art photographer. I think of my studio broadly as the upstate New York region. A sense of place is important in my work.

House with asphalt shingles and vinyl siding, Union Springs, 2016

House with asphalt shingles and vinyl siding, Union Springs, 2016

In 2016 I began a collaborative project with friend and writer Ron Ostman to explore the upstate cultural landscape including houses, schools, businesses, industries, theaters, signs, thrift stores, and places of worship.  The unadorned vernacular architecture of the old farm house above attracted me with the mundane beauty of its simple lines and patterns.

Rhinehart Sand and Gravel, Corning,2017

Rhinehart Sand and Gravel, Corning, 2017

We strove for a  focused aimlessness in our weekly treks. We had no fixed destination. The key was to stop. Often. A main interest became sites that reflect the flux of the built environment. We saw evidence of industries in decline or completely gone. The hulking rusted machinery at a gravel mining operation near Corning is a reminder of a different era.

Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant, Aurora, 2017

Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant, Auburn, 2017

We also saw new industry. The  Cayuga Milk Ingredients plant near Auburn is a high tech milk processing plant serving a collective of dairy farmers, its pristine facade rising above the surrounding agricultural land.

Petrified Creatures Museum, Richfield Springs

Petrified Creatures Museum, Richfield Springs, 2017

I keep my photo technique simple. For this project I used a full frame mirrorless digital camera and two manual focus prime lenses, a 35mm and a 50mm. Some of the artists I look to for inspiration include Walker Evans, Edward Hopper, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Lee Friedlander, and Thomas Struth.

Elmira/Horseheads contact sheet

Elmira/Horseheads contact sheet

Double page spread

Double page spread

Towards the end of 2017 I began to put the project into book form.

InDesign layout in progress

InDesign layout in progress

I use InDesign to combine photographs and text. It’s challenging and fun to find visual and thematic connections between images. The screen grab above shows a glimpse of the process involved in finding a pair of images for a double-page spread. Images that don’t make the cut live in the limbo of the pasteboard outside the page layout. Ron wrote an introduction about our process and an afterward with thoughts on the state of upstate.



The shop signs in the photos above provided an idea for the title of the book, as seen in the cover image below.

Cover, UNROOM: New 2 U

Cover, UNROOM: New 2 U

I used MagCloud, a print on demand publisher, to print UNROOM: New 2 U.  Signed copies are available at Main Street Arts. The book can also be purchased directly from MagCloud.

Printing and framing

Printing and framing

I print and frame exhibition prints in my office at home. Here are two images being prepared for the exhibit at Main Street Arts. A big thanks to Brad for his interest in this project!

Dundee storefront

Dundee storefront, 2017

Ron and I are continuing to work on two offshoots from this project. One is a series of photographs of storefronts,  such as the above second-hand store in Dundee.

Robinson's Wood Shop, Cortland

Robinson’s Wood Shop, Cortland, 2017

Another is a series about upstate New York people and their stories, such as this environmental portrait of Steve Robinson at his wood mill in Cortland.

Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers

Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers

Ron and I have collaborated on a number of books about historical photographers, the most recent of which is Wood Hicks and Bark Peelers: The Photographic Legacy of William T. Clarke, published by Penn State University Press in fall 2016. For more about this project see the New York Times Lens Blog.

See 12 of Harry Littell’s photographs in Unknown, Overlooked, and Unfamiliar at Main Street Arts on display through Friday, March 30, 2018. The exhibition can also be viewed on the gallery’s Artsy page: Artsy.net/mainstreetarts.

From The Director: Art From a Dream State

Similar to the four artists included in this exhibition, I also make artwork that floats in the realm of dreams and a questioning of reality. Many of the exhibitions that we have here (selfishly) relate to my own studio practice or ideas that I am personally interested in and it is because I find these things so interesting that I choose to share them with you through our exhibition programming.

Installation shot from Dream State (pictured: "Isle of Wight" by Lin Price and "The Dream" by Carrianne Hendrickson)

Installation shot from the exhibition (pictured: “Isle of Wight” by Lin Price and “The Dream” by Carrianne Hendrickson)

The notion of the dream state is a never ending source of inspiration and it can be both the object and the subject of an artwork. We rarely give ourselves the opportunity to let our dreams inform our waking life but much can be gained by doing so. Our subconscious mind is often holding the answers to questions that we have been asking ourselves. It is able to offer a glimpse into a personal truth or a hint at finding some kind of greater understanding. The goal in engaging with your dreams, at least for me, is to build a stronger connection between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The closer in proximity these two can be, the closer we are to realizing the benefits of dreaming.

Dream State, installation shot

“Dream State”, installation shot

The idea for this exhibition came after a studio visit with Lin Price in Ithaca. I was drawn in to her work when I first saw it in a solo exhibition at Axom Gallery two years ago. When I was talking to her about the prospect of being in an exhibition, I began to think about the sculptures of Carrianne Hendrickson—we had recently begun showing several of Carrianne’s figurative pieces in our gallery shop. Lin had one painting in particular that reminded me of a specific piece I had seen by Carrianne. It was one of the paintings shown in the exhibition at Axom Gallery.

These two pieces in particular (one of Lin’s and one of Carrianne’s) are the reason this show came together. Left: She Only Flies at Nite by Lin Price / Right: Sculptural teapot by Carrianne Hendrickson

While they are not included in the exhibition, these two pieces in particular are the reason this show came together. Left: She Only Flies at Nite by Lin Price / Right: Sculptural teapot by Carrianne Hendrickson

The moment I realized that these two artists in particular belonged in a show together was like a revelation. Two people who probably wouldn’t be in an exhibition together but desperately needed to be! One working in oil paint the other in clay, yet both traveling along the same cerebral path.

From my studio visit with Lin Price in Ithaca, NY

From my studio visit with Lin Price in Ithaca, NY

Lin’s work was a perfect fit for an exhibition called “Dream State”. Her paintings often feature a human figure engaging in some sort of mysterious activity in a nondescript environment. The colorful fields and atmospheres lend themselves to the notion of a dream or at least to a time and place that may not actually exist. Other of her paintings that do not include a figure still somehow evoke that same feeling. A feeling that something might happen or is happening just around the corner, out of frame and out of sight.

Sculptural vessels by Carrianne Hendrickson in the Dream State exhibition

Sculptural vessels by Carrianne Hendrickson in the Dream State exhibition

Carrianne’s sculptures are often layered in symbolism. Sometimes referencing known stories, other times referencing the inner world of the artist herself. To me, they often seem to suggest the moment of realization that things are not quite right. The idea that perhaps, I am sleeping and the world I am currently experiencing is in fact a dream. Examples from pieces in the exhibition include: blank stares from eyes whose head is balancing a bird’s nest, the closed eyes of a dreamer covered in snakes on a yellow striped couch, and the existence of goblins or human/animal hybrids.

Once Lin and Carrianne were secured for inclusion, I then set my sights on finding other artists to bring in to the exhibition and make it more comprehensive.

Left: From my studio visit with Matt Duquette in Buffalo, NY; Right: "The Space In Between" by Matt Duquette

Left: From my studio visit with Matt Duquette in Buffalo, NY; Right: “The Space In Between” by Matt Duquette

I was drawn in by his paintings of chickens. They have an otherworldly feeling to them but are still so relatable because of their subject matter. The paintings of Matt Duquette are often based on dreams and at least one painting in this exhibition was based on a guided meditation session.  Each of the paintings in the exhibition have the same cool, dark color palette. The atmospheric quality of these paintings presents us with situations and we have no idea how we got there. For the most part, there is no other point of reference, just a blue/black void and a light source to accompany the owls and human figures. I get the feeling that these scenes or visions are plucked right from a dream. They tell us something but that “something” is veiled and different for each of us.

Bill Finger's work from the alumni exhibition at RIT

Bill Finger’s work from the alumni exhibition at Rochester Institute of Technology

I saw some of Bill Finger’s photographic triptychs in circular mats at RIT in October of 2016 and was an instant fan. His photographs are a constructed reality running in tandem with the one we live. Whether based on actual places or totally made up, these images have a feeling like trying to recall a dream. You can remember the place and where things were but something seems off. Each of his photographs chosen for this exhibition keep us in an augmented reality where we are unsure what is possible or impossible.

Desert House (Night), a photograph by Bill Finger

Desert House (Night), a photograph by Bill Finger

Imagery that relates to a house or home comes into play throughout this exhibition. Houses, room interiors, nests, these are all familiar images and are all references to places of comfort which are needed to be engaged in sleep. These places become a jumping off point to engage in something that might be unfamiliar or at times, disconcerting. While we have no say in the matter of sleeping, some of us have the ability to recall and consider our dreams. Perhaps not in the way of figuring out the meaning of the dream itself, but to see how the dream may relate to things transpiring in our everyday lives. My hope is that this exhibition can serve as a reminder of how important it is to dream and that we all might begin to look inward in an effort to gain a greater understanding of who we are and how we relate to the world. I know it has for me.

See Dream State at Main Street Arts through this Friday, February 16, 2018. You can also preview some of the work on Artsy: Artsy.net/mainstreetarts.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Bill Finger


"Self Portrait" 2012

“Self Portrait” 2012

For many years, I worked on various motion picture productions as an Assistant Cameraman. My artwork and the process of it’s creation is very influenced and reflective of that time spent working on movies. Each photograph that I create begins with the construction of a miniature diorama. In a sense, the dioramas are like miniature film sets.

"After Psycho," 2006

“After Psycho,” 2006

"Watch," 2009

“Watch,” 2009

Each photograph begins with an empty work table and a camera on a tripod. The perspective of the camera’s lens is key. Everything is built to that point of view. This process comes in part out of economical necessity as well as limitations brought about by depth of field. When working with a wide angle lens in very close proximity there is often issue of degrees of visual distortion as well as a limited plane of focus. By varying the scale of objects, a deeper sense of depth and space can be created.

The work featured in Dream State comes from two different projects. However, both series play off of and look to ideas of space exploration.


“L.E.M.” 2013

Ground Control evolved out of an NPR interview with a scientist discussing the most economical way to send humans to Mars. The proposal centers around making it a one way trip. The prospect of traveling to Mars while leaving everything and everyone you know behind, was fascinating. Especially since the age parameter that they set, made me a prime candidate. But what stuck with me was the shear number of people asking to volunteer. People with no skill set for space exploration but who truly believe that it is their life calling. That was whose mind I wanted to play within and explore. I wanted to imagine how that obsession for space could manifest itself.

"Floating in a Most Peculiar Way"

“Floating in a Most Peculiar Way,” 2012


“Hot Wheels,” 2012

One of my photographs included in the Dream State exhibit is the title image for Ground Control. It makes reference to a well known NASA photo of Neil Armstrong descending to the surface of the moon. Looking to and referencing images from photo history has been an element that I work with, and has resurfaced in my work many times. I originally began referencing other photos as a Graduate Student at RIT.  Other examples of photographs that I have referenced include Death of a Rebel Sharpshooter by Alexander Gardner as well as, Frederick Church’s snapshot of George Eastman on the deck of the S.S. Gallia. To me, all of my photographs are in part about photography. This is one way that I chose to reflect upon it.


“Eastman I,” 2016



“Eastman II,” 2016


Photo by Frederick Church, 1890.

Photo by Frederick Church, 1890.



“Voyager VI”, 2012

With the second series, Voyager, I continue to use Space as an inspiration and touchstone. Where Ground Control can be brash and border on the fantastical, Voyager is intimate, quiet, and introspective. Focusing on perceptions of the passage of time, Voyager looks to exploration as a quiet and introspective form of drifting. Where Ground Control uses memories of the past to construct the desire for a future in space, Voyager uses memories on a more personal and grounding manner.  Floating and drifting through the landscape, time can seem to slow as space appears to expand. Time becomes more introspective as the explorer turns inward. A sense of longing surfaces and holds the explorer in orbit. It is this ebb and flow of past and present that brings out discoveries for the traveller.


"Voyager IV," 2012

“Voyager IV,” 2012


"Day Passing I," 2016

“Day Passing I,” 2016


Eastman process shot.

Eastman process shot.

More of my work can be viewed at BillFingerPhoto.com as well as on Instagram. You can see the photographs included in this exhibition on Artsy.

Nine of Bill Finger’s photographs can be seen in Dream State, on display through February 16, 2018. The exhibition also features paintings by Matt Duquette (Buffalo, NY), sculpture by Carrianne Hendrickson (Rochester, NY), and paintings by Lin Price (Ithaca, NY)Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased online. 

Meet the Artist in Residence: Renee Valenti

Renee Valenti is one of our current artists in residence at Main Street Arts. During the month of October, 2017, she will be working on a series of abstract paintings and immersing herself in art history books. We asked Renee a few questions about her artwork and studio practice. 

Renee Valenti

Renee Valenti

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m originally from a town right outside of New Haven, CT but I’ve been living in Brooklyn for the greater part of the past fifteen years. I’ve been making visual art for the past ten, after making a switch out of performing art and theater. I decided to make the change and went to Pratt for my undergrad and finished my masters last year from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s low-residency program. I feel that I still often draw from storytelling, the theatrical, or cinematic in my work; and I often like to work in series until something is finished for me.

"fuckin, fuck", oil on canvas, 2017

Renee Valenti: “fuckin, fuck”, oil on canvas, 2017

Q: How would you describe your work?
Painting is the largest part of my studio practice and I also do a lot of photography. Most of the time I would take the photos that I was using for my figure paintings, as well. My painting had primarily been figurative or the spaces people occupy, but then last year I started turning toward abstraction. I just couldn’t carry the heaviness in the narratives that were in the paintings from 2015-16 and I also just didn’t have any ideas in my head! I was feeling mentally spent but also just needed to get back into the paint. So one day just started making without the photo imagery. However, then another narrative started emerging for me within these abstract paintings; which still very much have a place of body within them.

My photography has been a continued investigation of portraits of friends, bikers, communities, and empty hotel rooms. I started driving to nearby towns and staying in hotels while living briefly in the mid-west in 2014. As a way to combat the solitude I was experiencing while living there, I started to photograph these spaces—investigating the comfort within transient places devoid of personal memory. Recently, I started a project of landscape photos down Route 66.

Images by Renee Valenti: The Chateau Royale, Lake Geneva,WI (left) Photo 9; (right) Photo 8: ghosts of ashtrays and whiskeys

Image by Renee Valenti: "Gas station, entering New Mexico—off Route 66", digital photo, 2016

Image by Renee Valenti: “Gas station, entering New Mexico—off Route 66″, digital photo, 2016

Q: What is your process for creating a work or art?
That’s a big question and it varies. Sometimes I watch a lot of movies and that inspires me aesthetically; filmmakers like David Lynch, Wong Kar Wai, Fellini, and Pedro Almodóvar. Usually it takes me a minute to do all the background work before beginning a new series. Whether that’s going to the library to do research on a photo project or walking around the city or being or getting into a head space to feel out what the inspiration for the paintings is/are. Sometimes it’s just walking in the woods a lot. I need meditative time for sure. But then once it takes off I can kind of hit the ground running after that until a stop comes and then it maybe things need a minute to refresh.

Q: What is the most useful tool in your studio?
I’m going to say my speakers, or my phone speakers. I always have something on, whether it’s music or a podcast, or talk radio or something. That kind of gets me going or keeps me going. You spend a lot of time alone in your studio too, so it breaks up your own voice or lets me get deeper into it within the making.

Q: What type of music do you listen to? How does music affect your artwork?
Everything from Beethoven to Best Coast to Led Zeppelin, to Santigold. It runs the gamut.

"White Noise", oil on canvas, 2016

“White Noise”, oil on canvas, 2016

Q: Where are your favorite places to see artwork?
Out in the world. I feel like some of the best art is all around us. Then Museums and galleries of course, depending on the show. The one thing about living in New York is that a lot comes through there, so you get to see a lot of great work up close and in person.

Q: What are your goals for this residency?
I plan on working on the series of abstract paintings that have been in process. I’m also planning on just bringing a lot of art history books and digging into those. I’m really looking forward to having a whole month to work there.

"Winter", oil on canvas, 2017

“Winter”, oil on canvas, 2017

Q: What’s next for you?
We’ll see! I’m looking for an exhibition space for these paintings sometime next year and to complete my Route 66 project. That’s the immediate future, art-wise.

Q: Where else can we find you?

Renee is teaching a workshop on Saturday, October 14 from 12 to 3 p.m. at Main Street Arts. Her Paint As Material worksop will examine the versatility of paint with a focus on experimentation within the medium. Sign up on our website to reserve your spot!


Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ian Sherlock

Ian’s artwork is on view in “Alternative Photographic Process”. His work is available for purchase in our Online Shop:

I make photographs, sounds, and drawings centered around the land. I studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and Syracuse University in Upstate New York where I earned my BFA in Fine Art Photography. Upon graduating, I worked as a professional printmaker at Lightwork and have recently made the move to further my understanding of “natural” environments by leaving for a job with the Boy Scouts of America in the Green Mountains. I play in a punk band, run for lengths of time that cause my organs to fail, and make art from time to time.


Photography is the medium I work in most for my art.  I am always seeking calmness and stillness and photography aids in the preservation of this quality. It creates tranquility, which is something I appreciate. I photograph primarily in black and white as I like the simplicity of only looking at/for light, shadow, and contrast versus color relationships. Working in greyscale also removes the image from reality even further, as I am not interested in documentation but rather using photographs to describe and evoke feelings, moods, and metaphors.


Most of my images are shot on film as it elevates the medium to the same level of preciousness as the subjects that I am photographing. This process slows me down, makes me think more completely, and allows me to spend more time looking at and interacting with landscapes or subjects versus firing the shutter blindly. Post-image making, film allows me the ability to make prints by hand, in a more intuitive and intimate fashion. Working in the darkroom engages my hands and helps to synchronize mind and body in the same way my other practices like running do.

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Photography’s other strength is that it can exist on paper, as opposed to mediums like sculpture or video. Prints are tangible and can either be considered disposable or precious merely by their presentation. In particular, photo books have an incredible ability to encapsulate a completed work that a photographer is trying to express. This is appealing to me as I like projects that have a definitive conclusion.

A photo book can also evoke a certain sense of preciousness and intimacy. Looking at a book is usually a more private experience and it is on the terms of the viewer.

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My creative interests originated in my early involvement in the punk scene. While the “Do It Yourself” ethics of punk fundamentally aid in all of my endeavors, they are displayed most explicitly in my sound art. I hesitate to consider my sound pieces “music”, but the aggression, tension and vulnerability that is present in my work stems very much from the punk music I grew up immersed in and continue to listen to today. My introduction to sound art has also allowed me to interact with an entirely different audience, as I am able to share this category of my work at concerts with people unfamiliar with or uninterested in contemporary visual art.


Like in my other mediums, interaction with the land is crucial in my sound art. I usually start with an experience in a “natural” environment or use field recordings from a place. I then utilize synthesizers, various re-purposed pedals, contact microphones on objects and cassettes to add an atmosphere that I feel best represents the feelings I have in those spaces that is not necessarily there to record.

I am growing increasingly interested in the relationship between sound and image and how I can better blend the two mediums into a synonymous and singular project.

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I don’t have a studio per say, at least not in a physical form. Much of my time thinking, reflecting, and conceptualizing is done while running. To me, running is very much the same as art making. While I run to come up with ideas to make art about, sometimes the run itself is the action and resolution to those thoughts or feelings. It is a medium of equal importance and possibility as a visual or sonic art. The meditative repetition and direct interaction with the land puts me in a deep inner space where I can reflect and conceptualize. I also race in events called ultra-marathons; which consist of distances that are longer than marathons. When I push myself to these limits, I feel a unique form of vulnerability and explore parts of my own mind that I feel are unreachable otherwise.

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ac13 004

The project I have most recently concluded is called “Dearheart”. “Dearheart” represents my personal fantasies of escapism, and an understanding of our society’s universal fascination with this idea as well. More specifically, I’m interested in the evidence of how this notion of escapism has manifested physically in the landscape itself, transformed in the wake of our endeavors to be transported, and to escape. The land has similar desires to us when it comes to escaping, solitude, and the act of hiding. I believe my consideration of this relationship creates a stronger connection between myself and the spaces I occupy. The process of making these images is an attempt at better understanding this relationship and I hope to translate my efforts to others the best that I am able.

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Stop by Main Street Arts to see Ian Sherlock’s artwork in “Alternative Photographic Process” (runs February 25–March 31, 2017). Visit Ian’s website at www.ian-sherlock.com and follow him on Instagram @iansherlockxvx. You can email Ian at iansherlockxvx@gmail.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester artist Rachel Cordaro.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Carl Chiarenza

Representation, as I use the word, does not mean documentary of the natural, social world. It does not refer to specific times and places.  Representation refers to how photographic syntax allows and restricts–how it frames the visual transformation of what is seen from the vantage point of the camera’s lens.

Acropolis Revisited 300, 2010

Acropolis Revisited 300, 2010

I’m interested in how what is in front of my lens comes together into a new object–how the photograph causes a genuinely real but fresh experience which did not exist before its appearance. The word “representation” is about photography’s way of transforming the supposed reality of things, as opposed to photography reproducing or tracing the world. A photograph may be used to represent the unknown, the mysterious, or invisible as much as it may be used to represent the known and visible.  It can be used for both prose and poetry where metaphors may dominate the viewer’s response and second thoughts may override the immediate response.

A photograph presents both artist and viewer with a challenge, because we want to know the subject depicted–as if the photograph were not there.  For over 165 years an extraordinary number of forces have led us to believe photographs are windows on reality, even when reason tells us otherwise.  We share photos of our children and say “this is my daughter”, as if the photograph were not there. We fail to recognize that while a photograph is different from other kinds of pictures it is still a picture. Therefore, it is characteristically different from what was in front of the lens.

Untitled 297, 2010

Untitled 297, 2010

Instead of trying to hide photography’s special characteristics of transformation in an illusion of material reality, I try to expose and exploit them. I underline the fact that the viewer is seeing an abstraction, a picture rather than actual events, as in the pictures in this exhibition.  Of course, individual picturemakers and picture users have their own ways of transformation, and today’s digital tools just compound those possibilities.

A Carl Chiarenza photograph in Fifty Landscapes, the current exhibition at Main Street Arts

A Carl Chiarenza photograph in Fifty Landscapes, the current exhibition at Main Street Arts

Even without considering the digital revolution, the difference between photography and reality is central to my thinking.  In the case of the media photograph (For example, the widely published image issued by the Bolivian government as evidence of the capture and death of Che Guevera, 1960s revolutionary) this difference can have serious consequences for our understanding of political and social events. How can we know the true relationship between the photograph and the actual facts about Che? This is also seen in the ongoing debate over facts and images of events in the Middle East. The issue of difference in my work has an additional wrinkle: how to hold the viewer’s attention beyond the initial frustrating attempt to decipher “what it is”. The problem is how to get the viewer to abandon their belief in the photograph as window, to bring them through the window to a new and unique visual event rather than an illusion of one that already occurred.

My photographs are made from collages which I construct specifically to be photographed in black and white. This process creates form and subject simultaneously. The collages are means to an end and are discarded once the photographs are completed. The photographs do not look like the collages from which they were made. They are transformations which refer to and represent visual sensations which I know only from a mix of past encounters with other pictures, music, the world, dreams, and fantasies.

The studio and darkroom are like scientists’ laboratories.  Artist and scientist both tinker with the known in search of the unknown. Both have a desire to see realities never before seen.  That desire motivates my work. I set myself free to explore the  photographic picture potential of the process itself, encouraging chance, accident, and discovery.

Noumenon 148, 1987

Noumenon 148, 1987

As Albert Einstein said, “One of the most beautiful things we can experience is the mysterious… It is the source of all true science and art. He who can no longer pause to wonder is as good as dead.”

My commitment is to exploring how little we know compared to how much we think we know, and to how little we know compared to how much we feel.  To make photographs which could convey such enigmas is my continuing obsession.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Carl’s artwork in our current exhibition, Fifty Landscapes (runs through May 13). View his work online at www.carlchiarenza.com. Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Meredith Mallwitz.

Inside The Artist’s Studio with Tom Kredo: In the Basement

I was born in Detroit, Michigan, the youngest of four with two  sisters and a brother. When I was only 5 my father died, and my stay at home mother became the household breadwinner. I was too young to have many memories of my father, but I was told he had a darkroom in the basement. I have a handful of his photos that he developed of my oldest sister. So when my mother gave me a Kodak Brownie camera and later an Instamatic camera, it must have been under the influence of my father that I became intrigued with making print images from a little box.

Tom Kredo, "Winter View", 2015

Tom Kredo, “Winter View”, 2015

I had plans to apply to RIT to major in Photography after graduating with my Bachelor of Arts degree. I did not. I got a more practical Management degree. Photography was pushed to the side to focus on a career in business, and then later, raising my daughter. Although I always had a darkroom in the basement, I only used it to document my life and the lives of those around me (just like Dad!). The art side of Photography lay dormant until I remarried and finished raising my daughter. It has since seeped back into my life a little bit more every year. Now that I’m retired, I have the ability to pick up where I left off 40 years ago, albeit in a computer transformed world.

My formal art training is replaced by reading art theory books, taking classes in drawing and art, and visiting art galleries. I recently took a talking tour of the Memorial Art Gallery with my BFA friend, while pondering the question “What is Art”? I use the internet every day to help me with post processing techniques and learn from professional photographers. It’s an amazing time we live in.

Pencil drawing from art class

Pencil drawing from art class

Today, the darkroom equipment in my basement is long gone, replaced by my Canon printer, my home assembled PC, my Craftsman workbench table, my mat cutter, and my paper cutter. Although the photographic process has changed, I’m still in the basement.

I cut my own mats with a Logan 450 mat cutter which I find to be a challenge. Precision is everything and it reminds me of wrestling with carpentry projects. You just can’t be off by ¼ inch and have it look good. I recycle a lot of mat paper.

I have a decent HP monitor that can be calibrated, unlike many of the less expensive models. Calibration is important because I want the print to look like the image I see on my computer. I use a Spyder calibration tool about once a month. It attaches to my monitor via suction cups, and I run a software program that instructs me to make changes to my monitor settings. It works nicely as I can see what I print.

Tom Kredo, "Leaf Lines", 2013

Tom Kredo, “Leaf Lines”, 2013

I print my own images using a Canon Pro-100 printer using Canon paper.   I’ve started refilling my own cartridges with bulk ink, which costs a fraction of the manufacturer’s ink. The Pro-100 has been a workhorse for me.

I assemble my own frames by buying in bulk. The challenge here is keeping small bits of dust from getting on the mat under the glass. Using a combination of canned air, cotton gloves, gum erasers and micro fiber cloths, I eventually get the framed photo dust and dirt free!

On the software side, I rent Photoshop/Lightroom from Adobe for a monthly fee. I also use Google’s EFX plug-in tools that seamlessly work the Adobe products. Together, these three tools are what I use to process about 95% of all my photos.

You can see more of Tom’s photography on Flickr. Stop by to see two of his pieces in our current juried exhibition, Structurally Speaking.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Ellie Honl.

Q & A with Ashley Lyon

The Upstate New York Ceramics Invitational at Main Street Arts will feature functional and sculptural ceramic work by 13 artists from the region. This invitational represents some of the most exciting contemporary ceramic work being made in upstate New York.

The exhibition will be held July 11–August 29, 2015.
Online purchasing will begin in mid-July.

Ashley Lyon

Hornell ceramic artist Ashley Lyon

Ashley Lyon

Q: Where are you from originally and where are you now?
A: I was born and raised in Southern California, Orange County. I left at 18 and moved to Seattle for Undergrad, then to Montana and Colorado for residencies and then back to Washington State for 2 years before moving to Virginia for Graduate School. Following Graduate school I moved to NYC and then 3 years ago I moved to Hornell, NY for a teaching position. I currently live in Hornell.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a ceramic artist?
A: I took a lot of ceramics courses in high school, they invented independent study courses for me because I had already taken everything the school offered and I still wanted to pursue it further. In college I tried to focus on something else- I thought perhaps I would become a doctor or a scientist or a writer. When it came time to declare a major the advisor pointed out to me that I had the most credits in art courses despite my desire to become something other than an artist. So this convinced me I should probably just do art. I had to decide between a painting major and a ceramics major because they would not let me do a double major- so I picked Ceramics because at the University of Washington the most exciting things and interesting discussions seemed to be coming from that department. Anyone could major in ceramics whether or not they were using clay- many people were not using clay and this just added to the richness of the program- you could still be a ceramics major by embracing a process that had more to do with the “sensibility” or an approach to clay without actually using it. This completely shaped how I think about it and use it in my own work today.

Q: Did you make other types of artwork before finding ceramics? Do you currently make other work?
A: I make and have made many other things: drawing, painting, videos, photography, textiles. My main other medium that I exhibit professionally along with my ceramic objects is photography.

Q: Do you have an artistic hero or an artist you look up to?
A: There are many, many artists I admire and look up to, I consistently admire and learn from the work of Juan Munoz and Robert Gober. Upon seeing each of their works for the first time I immediately knew and understood all of it- it was a feeling in my gut and my heart that was incredibly inspiring.

Q: What is your largest source of inspiration?
A: I can’t really describe a singular source of inspiration. My impulse to make a piece comes from many things, places, people, and images. Sometimes it is something I’ve seen on the internet, sometimes it is something someone says or something I’ve read, sometimes it is something I’ve witnessed randomly on the street, at a bar, at a restaurant, anywhere really. Sometimes it is a special person or a special object but it can also be something completely banal or someone I don’t know. The main thread is that I tend to start with objects, images, or moments that I have had an intense empathetic connection to. My pieces change and shift significantly as I make them in the studio. Chance, accidents and mishaps are a large source of inspiration and influence upon the final artworks.

Q: Do you look forward to opening the kiln? Or do you wince at the thought of something going wrong in there?
A: A lot of my work is never fired because it is built to become a photograph, but because I embrace accidents and mishaps I have a very neutral relationship with the kiln when I do fire a piece. I look forward to opening the door but rarely do I see what I expected. This is exciting.

Q: What is it like being a ceramic artist in Upstate NY?
A: I have made my work in many places across the country and internationally so making in Upstate NY does not feel particularly distinct for me in relation to my work. I do love it here. I feel good in my soul when I am struck by the natural beauty of everything around me; the seasons, the growth, the colors, the textures. This does not have a direct influence upon my work but it does influence my happiness in life.

I own a large building (a re-purposed Methodist church) that I have remodeled over the last 3 years with my partner Ian McMahon to be our home and studio and an art center. This building was affordable for us to purchase and remodel because it is located in Upstate New York. This is perhaps the most significant influence of location upon my artwork. I have complete access to a very large affordable space, which has been a dream studio for making large-scale sculptures and photographs.

Q: Where else are you showing your work this summer or fall?
A: Nothing planned or scheduled yet! I will be teaching a ceramic workshop at OxBow this summer and am looking forward to that. I am deep in the throws of applying to everything under the sun… and am excited for what the next year may hold in store for me!

Q: Is there anything strange or unique that people might not know about you?
A: I am Co-Founder and Co-Director of an artist-run exhibition center in Hornell, NY: The Belfry.

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Sculpture by Ashley Lyon

Where can people see more of your work/follow you?
Websites: www.ashleylyon.com and www.belfryarts.com

Check out the previous Q & A with ceramic artist Bethany Krull.

Small Works Opening

Thank you to everyone who came to the opening of our Small Works exhibition! It was a great opening, with a wonderful turnout. But don’t worry if you missed it, the show runs through December 29, 2014.

Small Works includes 129 works of art, 12″ or less, in a variety of media by 90 artists from across the country. We announced $1,000 in cash awards at the opening.

The Small Works opening reception

The Small Works opening reception

The Small Works exhibition

The Small Works exhibition

The Small Works opening

The Small Works opening

Artists included:
Atsuko Chirikjian, Alice Chen, Anne Punzi, Brock Flamion, Brad Daruszka, Bethany Haeseler, Carol Acquilano, Cheryl Dawdy, Chalda Maloff, Colleen Pendry, Cathleen Ryan, Craig Wilson, Doug Frohman, Domingo Parada, Denise VanDeroef, Elizabeth Andrews, Fumiko Kashiwagi, George Lorio, Gabriella Soraci, Geoffrey Stein, George Wallace, Harriet Heller, Hannah Lightbody, Ileen Kaplan, Judi Cermak, Julian Cartwright, JoAnn Gentle, Justyn Iannucci, Jennifer Kotler, James Mai, Jacquelyn O’Brien, Jim Pearson, John Ruggles, Joe Tarantelli, Jane Zich, Katherine Baca, Kathryn Bevier, Kristine DeNinnio, Katelyn Jurney, Kevin Stuart, Kenneth Townsend, Lauren Furushima, Lanna Pejovic, Larry Poole, Katharine Wood, Mary Begley, Madalyn LaCava, Maria Victoria Savka, Marissa Tirone, Mari Takagi, Michele Vair, Margaret Wilson, Mark Zeh, Nancy Hicks, Namdoo Kim, Owen Karrel, Phyllis Bryce Ely, Peter Bucklin, Paige Kleinfelder, Patti Miskell, Peter Russom, Robert Fiacco, Ryan Hoevenaar, Ryosuke Kumakura, Roberta Kappel, Rebecca Strohm, Rikki Van Camp, Sarah Arditti, Sara Basher, Sage Churchill-Foster, Samara Doumnande, Sofie Hodara, Susan Kaye, Stephen Komp, Stacy Liberati, Shannon McDonell, Simone Ochrym, Steven Piotrowski, Sean M. Witucki, Taylor Kennedy, Trisha Max, Terry Oakden, Trina Smith, Virginia Cassetta, Vincent Leandro, Vanessa Rivera, William Barkin, William Holowka, Yoon Jee Kwak, Zach Dietl

Gallery director Bradley Butler announcing the five award winners.

Gallery director Bradley Butler announcing the five award winners.

Best in Show: Trina Smith
Juror’s Choice: Yoonjee Kwak
Juror’s Choice: Kenneth Townsend
Honorable Mention: Colleen Pendry
Honorable Mention: Katharine Wood

Exhibition Dates: November 8–December 29, 2014