Despite the evening heat, First Friday on Roosevelt Row for August 2, 2013, was as lively as ever, although I would imagine the cafes and bars were doing a brisk business for the thirsty among us. A personal shout out to Songbird Coffee and Tea House for that lovely Italian soda!
My time was well spent at the ever-dependable Modified Arts, where the group photography show is titled “What Are We Doing Here?” and the theme is the dangerous beauty of the desert. It’s a perfect summer show and one that provokes thought about life, death and survival in the sometimes brutal environment we call home.
In several photos from five photographers, the sun becomes a major part of the composition, spreading its heat to the desert floor and city streets and enabling the interplay of shadows and harsh light. David Michael Cook, for instance, timed his shot to let the sun become a streak in the sky in “Forty-Two Minutes of Day and Forty-Two Minutes of Night, Shaw Butte, Phoenix, Arizona,” an intriguing panoramic view of the city.
David Shannon-Lier plays up the beauty of the desert landscape by setting his camera on moonsets and moonrises. Richard Laugharn concentrates on desert flora, with moody views of cholla and ironwood. I liked his two views of a saguaro taken 15 minutes apart, where the intensity of the sun is evident.
Also among my favorites was Christopher Colville’s “Burn,” in which a small bit of paper with charred edges is centered on a gravel background. It says “heat” and “desolation” with a clever simplicity.
I chatted with William LeGoullon, the curator of the show; his eight-print series “Desert Barnacles” is on display and invites questions about how it’s possible to even find barnacles in the desert.
LeGoullon explained that the ultra-close-up views of the eight, distinctly shaped barnacles — he likens them to portraits — are of mutated species. They originated in bodies of water in Southern California, attached themselves to military boats and planes, and survived the Salton Sea. LeGoullon sees the barnacles as a metaphor for transplants, human and otherwise, who must learn to adapt to the desert.
Although the portraits are large-scale, the actual barnacles are the size of a thumb-tack head, magnified several times over through LeGoullon’s use of microscope-like adapters on his camera.
It’s an enjoyable show, and the question posed in its title prompts a multitude of answers, depending on the viewer and his or her experiences with the desert. It’s up through August 10.
With every First Friday, I try to hit a gallery I haven’t visited before. This week, it was the surprisingly spacious Olney Gallery at Trinity Cathedral. A show by Gary Beals, who admirably creates both steel sculptures and abstract paintings, fills the gallery nicely. Exploring clean, geometric lines and shapes along with
color fields, Beals cites influences ranging from Isamu Noguchi to Robert Whitton to Daniel Libeskind.
Check the gallery’s Facebook page for times and days to see the exhibit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Olney-Gallery-at-Trinity-Cathedral/459569137463365?ref=stream&hc_location=timeline