Painting photographs and photographing absence

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2001

Most oil painters start with a blank canvas. Shar Fox starts with a black-and-white photograph.

Fox applies Marshall Photo Oils to her images, building layers of color and tonality.

"With some, it would be hard to tell if it's a photograph or a painting," Fox said. "I enjoy that ambiguity."

Fox and Katja Geldhof open a joint show of their work Friday at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council gallery. "Double Vision: Two Photographic Perspectives," opens with a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the gallery at 206 North Franklin St.

Geldhof grew up in Juneau and is studying history and journalism at Mills College in Oakland, Calif. This is her first show. In contrast to Fox, who is interested in manipulating her photographs, Geldhof wants simply to present what she sees.

"I'm concerned with just gathering the image," she said. "I feel a responsibility for documentation. The camera is a tool as well as a vehicle for artistic expression."

Geldhof doesn't work in the darkroom. The 20 color and black-and-white photographs in this show were reproduced using a high-quality color copier, not an enlarger.

She said her work falls into two categories: people and architecture. The architectural shots are sort of industrial, abstract shots, she said.

"The spaces between things, patterns and reflections - I've become interested in showing absence," she said.

The image of the top of the Dimond Courthouse against the sky, with a band of wires running across the image, is an example of that kind of work. Some were taken in San Francisco and Oakland and some in Juneau.

Fox will have images of flowers, landscapes and a series of nautilus shells. She's been experimenting with high-speed, black-and-white film, not because it allows her to shoot in low light but because of the way it looks.

"It's grainier, and I want the grain," she said. "The images are softer and since the image is less defined, I can play around with light and shadow more."

Fox said she's come to think of her work more as painting than as photography, particularly with some of the images.

"They're close-ups of flowers but there's a softness that makes them appear more abstract and more like a painting," Fox said. "I felt like doing some that are a little more abstract. I think it gives me a freedom to experiment with color and form."

Some of Geldhof's images also border on the abstract. She decided against giving the images titles so viewers would be able to make their own interpretations.

"That gives the viewer an opportunity to come to the image on their own terms, and that's what I want," she said. "I'll be at the opening and I'll be happy to elaborate or explain anything."

Fox will also be at the opening Friday evening. "Double Vision: Two Photographic Perspectives" will be on display through Dec. 31. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment.

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