No. 46. Layers in Common Show

Never in a million years would I have thought about a Dog Training facility as a venue to display art—mine or anyone else’s—until last spring some friends invited Martha Ressler and me to their opening at Awesome Dawgs. A marriage of a dog trainer and a gallery owner resulted in this interesting amalgam in a renovated barn bordering the Oley Valley. At that time we began negotiating our own show there.

The opening last week of our show Layers in Common was a bit unusual in that the guests included a number of furry four-leggers in various shapes and sizes along with their human companions. It was an art opening and a dog social all in one.

Our show was a bit different in another regard. This is the first gallery show that Martha and I’ve done together. Often we both participate in group shows, sometimes hang a solo show, or occasionally one of us teams up with another artist to share gallery expenses. (We do many art fairs together or side by side.)

Several people have requested that we post the show online. As it turns out, this is a good exercise because it reveals a disconnect between what I actually show in galleries or other venues and what appears in this weekly blog. Several pieces have been shown one place or another, but not here. Martha has posted her half of the show under the title Awesomeness on her blog, here. Below is my artist statement for this show in which I discuss the somewhat disparate selection of pieces.

Words about Layers in Common — Anchoring my selections for this show are four pictures from my Love Letters series, a group of pictures incorporating photos of wildlife with love letters I’ve found in various places, mostly on the Internet, blended into the background. Four more are from two parallel series I’m currently working on Country Roads and Country Too. The former is a grouping of composite photos the latter black and whites. Both series are based on rural Berks County landscapes. Quarter Past Midnight rounds out the locally-sourced pictures. Water Lettuce, an infrared picture shot on Coffeepot Bayou in St. Petersburg, FL, is something of an outlier in this exhibit. It was chosen for purely aesthetic reasons to hang next to Quarter Past Midnight and like Hard Look bookends the exhibit with black mats.

Jay M. Ressler

Jay Ressler Composite Photography, Encaustic Art, and Oil Painting He is an outstanding location photographer and painter, 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. 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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