No. 23. A Look Back – Rustbelt Roller Ride

Originally shot in May 2013 and the composite created the same week, this picture was printed on stretched canvas. It’s been one of my favorite pictures and has been shown often at art fairs and other displays of physical art.

The piece depicts a blast furnace at US Steel’s Edgar Thompson Mill in Braddock, PA (just outside Pittsburgh.) ET continues to operate as a fully integrated mill. Named after his mentor while he worked at the Pennsylvania Railroad and later his best customer, it was Andrew Carnegie’s flagship mill. Across the Monongahela River is the Kennywood Amusement Park with the roller coaster just barely visible.

For the thousands upon thousands of workers who have gone through the mills during the last century and a half and the communities impacted by the boom and bust cycles and environmental havoc unleashed by the steel barons it’s been a wild ride.

I showed it again this month at Cafe Bold in West Reading, PA. This time, the canvas sold within an hour of hanging the show. When I went to look for it on my website to promote the show, I discovered, lo and behold, I never included it in a web gallery. So here it is. Prints on paper will continue to be made available.

Jay M. Ressler

Jay Ressler Composite Photography and Encaustic Art He is an outstanding location photographer, with an eye that can capture the soul of a Havana back street as beautifully as the sip of a hungry hummingbird, often with compelling black and white images. But Jay Ressler is best known for artistic expression that lives in layers between opposites. “I like to explore boundaries,” he explains. “Boundaries between consciousness and the unconscious, between reality and imagination, between certainty and skepticism.” He does this by compositing his own photography in multiple layers to produce stunningly original, interleaved images. Using Photoshop, other image manipulation software and a variety of digital effects, he paints one photographic layer on top of another. He takes advantage of textures he's captured along with an array of processes for manipulating light, contrast, and color to tell the story. “Distorting and reinterpreting the literal 'machine moments' captured by the camera is as old as the art of photography,” he insists. Jay occasionally extends his multi-layered approach to encaustic mixed media creations. Based on ancient techniques, the process begins with cooking his own recipes of beeswax and damar resin and applying this medium between the layers of photographic images, along with various pigmented compounds and materials to add color, texture and expression. Either way, the results are riveting. The viewer is drawn into an unfolding, dreamlike scene that might be heart-warming, haunting, gritty, poignant or magical. Sometimes, within the various layers, all of the above. The award-winning photographer/artist has many dimensions himself. He studied advanced digital photography at Pittsburgh Filmmakers and advanced encaustic techniques with leading instructors in the field. He worked as an underground coal miner, steelworker, machinist, labor and civil rights activist, copywriter and commercial printer. He has a BS in Psychology from Albright College.

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