Thomas Michael Alleman was here at CSU, Chico yesterday for his Sunshine & Noir exhibition at the University Art Gallery. He spoke to the Advanced Photography class for over an hour and a half, with much energy and animation, speaking very quickly, moving around a lot, and gesturing with his hands. Using a powerpoint presentation he showed us gazillions of his images and spoke about his career as a photojournalist and how he moved into his present work. Alleman has taken an artful documentarian approach to his work, like Garry Winogrand or Lee Friedlander, using his role with the newspaper to gain access to interesting events, taking shots to fulfill the assignment, but also taking more creative shots for his own interest. At some point he began using a portable lighting system to light people for portraits, which was very unusual for newspaper work at the time. This allowed Alleman to transition into shooting for magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and National Geographic, especially shooting portraits of various celebrities like Donald Trump. But with 9/11 the news focused on New York and the following war – his specialty work was thus not needed, allowing him time to shift his photography towards an art focus rather than journalism. Using a plastic Holga camera allowed him to detach from camera technicalities and produce more of a dreamy effect, capturing places such as Los Angeles and New York. The Sunshine & Noir exhibit shows some very clever images, some whimsical, some moody and mysterious. The image that affected me the most was one that seemed to fit the exhibition the least, as I could not really tell what I was looking at – something like the face of a cliff with much depth and earthiness. What I appreciated most about Alleman, however, was his enthusiastic attitude that kept saying "whatever drives you forward, pursue it, go for it, give it a try, don't over-think it, do it."
Yesterday was also Ellen Akimoto's reception for On, On, Pliant Signifier at 1078 Gallery. Unfortunately I could not stay to hear her speak, but the show is wonderful, taking up the whole gallery space with large drawn and painted, cut-out, human figures in various poses, gestures, and expressions, arranged against painted portions of the wall. The result is delightfully curious for her work denies us the picture frame, forcing us to see each figure as an object in itself and yet those objects still relate to other similar objects. Also, I love how she painted the figures, quite naturalistic, and yet slightly tweaked, with various figures being headless or bearing some other enigmatic quality. Nicely done, Ellen!
Two other openings happened on campus last nigh as well: Black by Greyson Collins in the B-SO Space and Fictitious Wanderings by a few MFA students (Chelsea Gilmore, Mariam Pakbaz, and Ruby Rudnick) at the 3rd Floor Gallery. And the MFA studios were open to the public as well.
So much art for such a small town!