Here, There and Back Again: Photographs from Texas, Japan and California
Faulkner East Gallery, December 1 through 27, 2007.
Mining the details - Kate Connell has a unique eye for the mundane and secret beauty of 'nothing'.
By Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara News Press Correspondent.
December 21, 2007 10:41 AM
In Santa Barbara, a town long known to be photography-rich, if somewhat conservative in its photographic tastes, it is always refreshing to encounter a photographic aesthetic off to the left of convention. Kate Connell's spontaneous, cliche-dodging images qualify as such a find, and offer a fine reason to swing by the central library's Faulkner East Gallery this month.
As she coyly but insightfully writes in her statement in the gallery, "I like great pictures of nothing." Of course, Connell's point -- as embodied in her work -- is that profundity lurks everywhere and in the everyday, and that something illuminating can come from scenes we've been trained to think of as "nothing."
Nevermind the deceptively travelogue-ish title, Here, There and Back Again: Photographs from Texas, Japan and California, Connell is not concerned with putting exotica or travel memories in tidy emulsion-based packages. Her close-up shot of pine needles at the Goleta Kmart is as exotic as anything from her travels to Kyoto.
She has a way of infusing mystery in textural compositions of a thicket or perforated chain-link fence in varying states of focus, or the wind-swept tarp. These images awaken senses and subvert our preconceptions of photographic normality.
Among the pictures here, there are few neatly laid-out stories, protagonists or subject-versus-ground relationships. When figures do appear, they are shadows in a window, or non-traditionally portrayed, as with "McKenna and Saul, Goleta." This would be a traditional image or snapshot, a portrait of two children in a suburban backyard, except that the mottled shadows flailing across them breaks basic rules of Kodak-approved conduct.
We're led into double-take admiration in pieces such as "Sorrow Twine, Kyoto" and "Gingko and Lamps, Kyoto," in which the photographer tilts her lens skyward and captures happenstance snippets of a treetop and a lamppost on the way up. "Lincoln Continental, Goleta" is an optical poem and an incidental finding. A shiny, dark and mysteriously backlit Lincoln is the point-of-perceptive-departure rather than a real subject, its translucent shirt hanging in the back seat illumined by late afternoon sunlight.
In a way, Connell's work bears some kinship, on a humble scale, to the great Southerner William Eggleston and his followers. Eggleston-ites seek their own kind of "decisive moments" on the outskirts and the margins in life and the visual world normally ignored.
Wonder is all around us, if we can still the chatter and the endless petty distractions to notice. That's partly what artists are for -- helping us to notice. Connell seems to get that idea.
Wherever You Go, There You Are.
By Kami Shallenberger, Santa Barbara Independent.
December 13, 2007
Stepping into the world of photographer Kate Connell is like drifting between a meditative consciousness and a dream where memories of familiarly foreign landscapes float in and out of one another. The sky is a hazy white; the earth is dewy and tangled with vines. In Connell’s world, what is real effortlessly flips between a sharp focus and a soft blur, leaving much to the imagination.
Here, There and Back Again features a collection of 31 photographs that chronicle the past eight years of Connell’s studies of vines in Austin, Texas; nature in urban Kyoto, Japan; and the suburban neighborhoods and ranches of our own backyards in Goleta and Santa Barbara.
Through her visual exploration of place, Connell discovers and uncovers layers of her own personal history. Her strongest images are those that successfully blur the lines of perception between what is natural and what is man-made; when organic forms are mistaken for urban architecture and vice versa. In “Gingko and Lamps, Kyoto,” the skinny branches of a gingko tree stretch into the white sky like a natural radio tower arching above curved streetlamps. Close to the trunk, a few remaining golden leaves intertwine with the branches, fluttering like delicate moths and adding life to this otherwise sparse scene. In “Ma, the Gate, Kyoto” what we think is a canopy of interlocking vines giving way to an urban neighborhood is, on closer inspection, merely a moldering metal fence.
Connell’s photographs express the balance between her delights and disappointments with the modern environment. Overall, her images show us that no matter where one goes, nature prevails, blurring the artificial boundaries between countries, cultures, and one another.
The artist believes in giving back to each place she inhabits, and in that spirit she will donate a percentage of print sales to benefit the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County. In this sense, Connell’s sensitivity to the otherwise overlooked details of the everyday capture an optimistic vision of the future of preservation, as well as a portrait of our common inheritance: a world of both urban landscapes and natural spaces.
The tale of nine - Photography group emerges from darkroom into digital age
By Ted Mills, Santa Barbara News Press Correspondent.
July 4, 2008 10:53 AM
'AN EXHIBITION OF PHOTOGRAPHS BY: THE F/NINE GROUP' Goleta Library Gallery July 1-July 31, reception 1 to 5 p.m. July 13 Cost: Free Information: 964-7878
"I can't imagine what we used to do before computers," says Marilyn Ziemer, one of the founding members of the f/nine photography group. The statement is both ironic and pointed. For over 20 years and some 40 odd group shows, the photography group has done well working in rolls of film and in chemical-heavy darkrooms. The advent of digital photography came slowly for the group, but it's this change that has finally closed the studio the group used to share-- a communal darkroom that allowed the nine members to experiment and work without paying by the hour. In the digital age, a darkroom is an obsolete extravagance, but will the lack of a shared space cause the group to disband? The first post-darkroom exhibit from f/nine opens for a month beginning July 1 at the Goleta Valley Library and may answer that question. The membership roster of f-9 has changed little over the years: Along with Ziemer, there is Birgitte Aarestrup, Carole Daneri, David Hancock, Aavo Koort, Beverly LaRock, Zoltan Puskas, and Thomas Webster.
Newest member Kate Connell joined in 2006, filling the gap left by another member. "I had been living in Japan, and I was still stuck in the film mindset," Connell says. Connell's photographs from that time reflect the dichotomy she saw in the Kyoto suburb where she and her family lived for a spell-- the beautiful and ancient surrounded by, and sometimes corrupted by, the detritus of modern living, from air conditioners, heating units, and chain link fences. Since returning to the area, she's moved her aesthetic to the environs of Goleta and found similar juxtapositions. Ziemer's style is far removed from Connell's-- her current work focuses on close-ups of flowers-- as are all members from each other. The real connection remains in their initial meeting, as part of an Adult Education class in 1986. "We were advanced amateurs," Ziemer says. "Some of us were professionals too, depending on how you define it," meaning that the photography didn't pay the bills despite the talent. Needing a space to share, the group settled on a darkroom in the Andalucia building on State and Gutierrez (home of several dance studios, among others). One member paid half the rent, the others chipped in, and the group came and went as they needed. The resulting group shows made their way into the more public galleries of Santa Barbara County-- libraries and county buildings.
The group has made no statements or claimed an aesthetic other than high quality. But as the digital age has crept in, the group has watched the major labs around town-- Armstrong Labs on Milpas, Specialty on Cota-- shut down. As of last year, nobody was using the space. It was time to call it quits. None of this will be apparent to the exhibition's visitors. Some members still shoot in film, but scan negatives and print in digital. Others use computers for every step. Viewers of Birgitte Aarestrup's latest spread in Santa Barbara Magazine on Fiesta horses and riders will have no idea of emulsion or megapixel count. And if so, will it be easier to stay together as a group or split up? Ziemer says the group has discussed the issue, but the answer lays in the exhibit. "We plan on going ahead," she says, then pauses. "Unless we change our minds."
Dreams of Summer by Heather Jeno, SB Independent
July 3, 2008
Dip into a Print
Although libraries traditionally house art in its written form, it is always nice to have visual aids. The Goleta Public Library enhances its literary collection by featuring photos by area photography collective the f/nine group. Since its formation 22 years ago by Santa Barbara Adult Education students, f/nine has organized over 45 exhibitions featuring the photographic work of nine artists. The Goleta Library show combines straight black-and-white photography mixed with digitally enhanced works. “Moon on Wire” by Kate Connell transforms a mundane, backlit stop sign into a romantic portrait of a hanging moon, while Marilyn Ziemer’s image of a dilapidated beach bungalow in “For Rent” is reminiscent of a long-ago childhood vacation during a carefree summer.
Interpretations of Landscape: Photographs by Kate Connell and Larry Mills.
Art Resources Gallery, May 18 through June 30, 2007.
A Beautifully Obstructed View
By Kami Shallenberger, Santa Barbara Independent.
May 31, 2007
Nestled as it is at the end of an alleyway lined with succulents and weathered
picture frames, one could easily miss the Art Resources Gallery, which doubles
as a frame shop. Inside this hidden creative space, Santa Barbara photographers
Kate Connell and Larry Mills’s current exhibit, Interpretations of Landscape,
juxtaposes the artists’ natural visions with their subjects’ synthetic materials
and obstructed vistas.
Although foreign objects dominate Connell’s landscapes, they appear effortlessly
organic, as if they have evolved to become part of the natural world. Saturated
images appear as if viewed through a veil: Emerald green nets drape across the
skyline like withering vines, while burgundy curtains of rope give way to the
hazy Kyoto mountains in “Hieizan through Net.” In “Pigeons and Lamps,” bare tree
branches resembling antlers are silhouetted against street lamps and traffic
lights that meld together against the skyline. Sharp, golden and copper pine
needles pierce through openings in “Fence with Needles,” as if reclaiming their
Connell’s sensitivity for detail is contrasted by Mills’s architecturally linear
photographs. Mills depicts an urban landscape where buildings, traffic signs,
and abandoned cars cast unexpected shadows to create new forms. The photographer
draws inspiration from quirky San Francisco architecture, as seen in “House of
God,” where a small pastel home sits perched like a dollhouse between imposing
apartment buildings. From the window, a porcelain angel peeks out as if
searching for something unattainable in the sliver of sky visible above. In
“Facelift,” a sleeping woman’s face is depicted in spray paint on the rock of a
jetty that protrudes into a serene bay, as if the woman is shutting her eyes to
any further encroachment on the waters she fails to protect.
Together, Connell and Mills’s photographs expose the hidden beauty in unexpected
spaces, where humans orchestrate the contemporary landscape. Synthetic materials
appear organic, while urban skylines and neglected machines express human
influences on the natural habitat. Both artists embrace what is left of the
natural landscape, planting the seed for preservation and expressing nostalgia
for the open spaces of the past.
Links and readings:
Lost Japan by Alex Kerr
Hokkaido Highway Blues: Hitchhiking Japan by Will Ferguson
Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 by Ian Buruma
Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II by John W. Dower
A Hundred years of Japanese Film: A Concise History by Donald Richie
Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital by Judith Clancy
Old Kyoto: the Updated Guide to Traditional Shops, Restaurants and Inns
by Diane Durston
Japanese Garden Design by Marc Keane and Haruzo Ohashi
Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel
When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka
36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan by Cathy N. Davidson
Kyoto Journal: www.kyotojournal.org
The Way of The Japanese Bath by Mark Edward Harris
Japan by Horace Bristol
The Land Trust of Santa Barbara County: www.sblandtrust.org
My Earlier Website: Web Archive
For stock photography inquiries, please contact Santa Barbara Photographer Kate Connell: (805)708-8058, firstname.lastname@example.org and Getty Images.