Photo finish at SPAG

The thing about making your space available to everyone is that sooner or later everyone will come. SPAG was approached by some amateur photographers who had originally met on-line at to ask about renting some of the space at SPAG. As it happened many of the other people who decided to show at the same time also worked in this medium.
the point about photography is that if you are going to shoot straight ahead photography-or I guess even if you are not-you need to develop an eye. Photography is usually considered to be about light-but for the vast majority of people it has become mainly about forms or portraits. Some people simply record what they see, hopefully in interesting ways, and others play with combinations of forms. There is actually a huge amount of experimentation going on with photography which has moved it light-years-so to speak- from straight representation. For the most part you wouldn’t know that from the work in the flickr part of the show.
This is not to say the photography was bad or not technically proficient-it was. There were many good pieces-Sean Mathis had an excellent photo called Erosion-Highway 550. He photographed this looking like an abstraction to good effect. He also plays a bit with mixing color and black and white. In his piece The Right Side of the Tracks, the foreground is a black and white photo of a boxcar. Through the open door he has put a color landscape. He also has a variety of other good black and white photographs playing with forms and details.
Romero Duran has photographed a slightly surreal scene looking through a cave opening down on an empty picnic table and chairs apparently set on a mountain cliff. He works with digital photography as well as black and white, and I learned the other day that he has made some amazing photographs of religious festivals particular to little towns in Zacatecas as well as some scenes in Turkey. He has recorded songs and interviews and I would love it if we could have some kind of show of all of this.
Others in the show photographed lightning storms, or the fire in an iron worker scene to good effect. Tom Gage had a scene in a bowling alley with a fisheye lens photographed all in blue. Mark Paulda recorded speed as long line of light. Angelina Stewart created a somewhat ghostly image of a woman walking up stairs entitled In Search of Higher Ground, she recorded movement and otherworldliness simultaneously. Actually I’m not sure who was in the Flickr show and who wasn’t because they rented a part of the back room, but I don’t know if all of that or only a part was theirs since it wasn’t specifically marked.
In the rest of the show at SPAG the interesting mixed with forgettable clutter.
Marsha Isabel Flores had two nice somewhat haunting black and white photographs entitled self-portrait 1 and 2 which were eyes in flowers-irises in irises?. Janelle Borsberry played with words and images in her photo manipulations. Santiago Gonzales created an incredible huge hanging papier mache representation of La Llorona and perhaps fittingly in the same room is Miguel Lopez’s photographic manipulations playing with themes such as the Witch and Demon.
Jose Limon in the very back room had some very polished mixed images using photography among other medium to create what seems would be excellent commercial images. Across the wall Tess Lynch has created some truly horrifying scenes with colored pencils inspired, I’m assuming, from Japanese anime or from graphic novels inspired by anime. This is not something I know enough about to comment on. Those who like this will no doubt love it-those who don’t will probably leave very quickly looking for calmer waters.
One of the nice things about this show was that it brought out people who do not usually go to SPAG. This town needs for everyone working in different art mediums to look at each others work and to look at what’s out there in the world at large. We seem to be too often trapped in a little provincial bubble-so many people are doing incredible things. So many people here are doing some great things but there is very little interchange between artists or between groups of artists. Hopefully places like SPAG and the new Ramblin’ Gallery will help change that, but it depends on individual artists getting out of their own comfort zone and going to look-going to see what is out there.-David Sokolec

Posted in art. 7 Comments »

7 Responses to “Photo finish at SPAG”

  1. Tim Holt Says:

    Thanks for taking part in the conversation.
    I don’t know from your write up if I am clutter or interesting work, so for my purposes I will consider myself clutter.

    Photography in El Paso is a hard sell. Hell, any art in El Paso is a hard sell, but photographs are particularly difficult. There are, as far as I know, no galleries in El Paso dedicated to photography. There are, as far as I can tell, only a few photo exhibits, and the few pros that live here often have to go out of town to make a living.

    So I think that you are sort of hitting the larger issue and sort of missing it here. The Flickr group made no claim to be high art. From what I can tell, most of the members were and are hobbyists and that is what you saw at the SPAG show. People in love with their hobby.

    Were some of the shots cliche? Sure. Were some over exposed or technically incorrect? Perhaps. Was there a little too much Photoshopping going on? Maybe.

    But the point here is that there is now a core of 15 or so new artists on the scene in El Paso. That is 20 that were not here prior to the show. That is a good thing.

    The art will only get better from these folks. Practice and experimentation only makes things better. Rarely does an artist get worse!

    Maybe in a few months there will be a Jose Limon show, or a Marsha Flores show somewhere in town. Wouldn’t that be great? Heck, I was inspired enough from just being asked to go ahead and have a complete show latter in the month. It isn;t at the “standard art spaces” but it is a show nonetheless.

    So, yes, the Flickr show ranged from snapshot to showpiece.

    But that is what Flickr is all about.


  2. carolyn rhea drapes Says:

    Clarification: The back room at SpAG contained only the 18 El Paso area photography, and their photography was not exhibited outside that room. Our personal points of view were captured utilizing a wide range of equipment — from the latest high tech SLRs to low tech 120 Holga and antique bellows, and range finder and SLR 35mm film cameras.

    I believe each one of us not only learned from this experience, but supported one another, which in turn, created a wonderful collaborative effort. Without the help of SpAG and those in our group (and you know who you are) the exhibit would have remained fantasy for all.

    Many thanks to Keith Spencer and the SpAG for allowing us to mount this show, which for many, was a first and sweet taste of the gallery exhibition experience. In addition, thanks to this blog for taking the time to comment on the show.

    carolyn rhea drapes (chacal la chaise)


  3. M J Drapes Says:

    Mr. Sokolec,
    The problem with opinions is that everyone has one. You need to take some advice from Thumper’s mother. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.


  4. Mark Paulda Says:

    Mr. Sokolec-
    Please check your facts before reporting.
    While we at flickr applaud Sean Mathis, he is not a member and you have included him as part of our group.

    Too, take note of the title of this photography exhibition….First! Indeed it is a first for us, but believe me, you have not heard the last from the El Paso Flickr Group. We’ve never pretended to be anything but what we are, but the group as a whole has had the confidence to put ourselves on public display to show that in this day and age of everyone having a camera that photography can be more than a snapshot. Not only did we draw a huge turnout opening night, but we exceeded our goal and are moving onto bigger and better projects. Never underestimate this group as we WILL prove the naysayers wrong every time. Guaranteed.

    We encourage everyone to join in (better yet join us!) and we all are thankful that Keith Allyn Spencer provides an opportunity to celebrate and display art in this city. Every El Paso artist should follow suit. Until you can think of a better way I suggest you look at the overall “picture” and choose your words a little differently.


  5. David O. Garcia Says:

    Mr. Sokolec,

    As you are currently improving your web design and graphic skills with Adobe products I would also recommend a refresher course in being a nice person. These folks did a good job and gave it their all. There is no need to quash emerging artists.


  6. dsart Says:

    ed note. There has perhaps been a bit of confusion regarding this review. The First people rented a portion of the back room of the SPAG gallery. I was reviewing Exhibition 25 including their contributions. When I talked about “the show” I was not necessarily referring to them. Because I knew they were relatively new to photography, I believed I gave them a fairly positive review. I am sorry if I was not a sufficiently enthusiastic cheerleader for their efforts-I don’t have the legs for it.


  7. David O. Garcia Says:

    You don’t have to be a cheerleader, just don’t be a swinging richard about it. These folks are not competing with others and it was their first show. You do remember your first show don’t you?


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