How would you like your photographs?
Blurred to the point of abstraction, encased in beeswax or fired onto ceramic tiles?
If your vacation negatives came back looking like this, you would probably throw away the batch and file a complaint with whoever processed your film, but at the 2012 Anacortes Arts Festival, these unorthodox beauties will be among the attractions at Arts at the Port.
You can see them in the Focus Gallery first at the festival’s free Arts at the Port Fine Art Opening 6-8 p.m. Saturday at the Port of Anacortes Transit Shed Event Center at First Street and Commercial Avenue. Also on display will be the work of more than 80 regional artists in the festival’s annual juried show and student art in the annual Youth Art Exhibit.
The Focus Gallery is centered around the work of two Skagit County photographers who died last year: Lee Mann and Dick Garvey of Anacortes. Two other photographers were invited to present their unconventional prints in the gallery.
Ruth Westra, of Camano Island, was featured in the Arts Festival in years past as a watercolor painter. Two years ago, she studied in-depth photography and ceramics under artists Chaim Bezalel and Yonnah Ben Levy, husband and wife, on Camano Island.
Westra began firing her photographs onto ceramic tiles — glazing strong, contrasted images over the pale ceramic.
“My photos are mainly of nature,” she said. “And the composition of my photography requires that they have a lot of value distinction.”
She said her outlook on photography changed as she began the new presentation style.
“I guess my photography has gotten more specific, with an eye toward the finished product,” she said. “I didn’t want to present it in a conventional way.”
Westra will have 13 photographs on display in the Focus Gallery, some composed of multiple tiles. She said it takes about 10 full days to complete a batch of her kiln-fired photographs. Her largest is 12 inches by 15 inches. She would like to make them bigger, but they become too heavy.
Kathy Hastings is the other photographer invited to display her work in the Focus Gallery. She’s an avid kayaker in the waters near Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.
Hastings said she has been fascinated by water photography for years, and her main interest is to paddle up to large ships and take photos of their hulls.
“When you get really close to a ship that’s that big, some very interesting things can happen,” she said.
Hastings said her photos alone couldn’t communicate the rough surface of the hulls or the light and colors reflecting off the water, so, like Westra, she developed an unorthodox way of presenting her photos — coating the images in beeswax.
“I could put layers over the photos and I could add textures and pigments,” she said.
Hastings has six encaustic photographs in the Focus Gallery this year. She said she studied illustration and watercolor painting in California, and she first discovered the wax method at a demonstration in an art store four years ago.
The show will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, July 30 through Thursday, Aug. 2. During the festival, Aug. 3-5, the show is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Dick Garvey is known for his large-format photos of western landscapes. He was the son of a Great Northern Railway worker, and he spent most of his life in Anacortes, graduating from AHS in 1970. At the age of 19, Garvey drove to Arizona, then Florida and New Hampshire taking pictures, before he returned home.
He later graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in California and spent his professional career teaching, mentoring, traveling and waiting for the light to be just right. He died in March 2011.
Lee Mann gave up his first career as a teacher in 1970 to pursue photography full time. He traveled the world, but was most drawn to — and renowned for — his images of Pacific Northwest mountains and seascapes.
He died last summer after a brief battle with cancer.
The juried competition features a sizeable collection of photos — second in number only to more than 40 paintings — along with basketry, ceramics, fiber, glass, gourd, jewelry, sculpture and installation art.
Thirteen Anacortes artists — including five photographers — are among the 83 featured in the juried competition.
Juror Barbara Matilsky is the curator of art at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham. She said that when she chose the pieces for the show she tried to feature as many artists in different mediums as she could.
Matilsky recently moved to the area from the East Coast. She said jurying the competition gave her an overview of what is happening regionally in the arts community and what is important to folks in the Pacific Northwest.
“Nature is pretty high on that list,” she said.
She also said she suspects she was invited to juror the show because she moved here so recently.
“I think they wanted a fresh eye,” she said. “I don’t know the names and reputations of all the artists.”
Anacortes poet and photographer Jane Alynn submitted several photographs for the competition. She said she wasn’t at all surprised that Matilsky chose “Enigma of the Hour” for the exhibit. It’s one of the pieces she’s most happy with.
The image is a stunning blur of tangled tree branches in a ghostly, ethereal black and white.
Alynn said she uses a film camera and prints zone plate images with silver gelatin. She said she has been working with this medium for more than 10 years.
“It softens the images and makes them more abstract,” she said.
Festival organizer Rita James said Matilsky succeeded in her goal to present a wide array of mediums.
“It’s one of the most diverse shows we’ve had in years,” she said.
Both the juried competition and the focus gallery are free this year, and the festival will give out more than $10,000 in prizes to artists, James said.
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