What: Two juried photography contest exhibitions

Where: Center Gallery, 111 Ellis, Wichita, Kansas

When: Opening reception: January 27th, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. Works on display through February 10th.

How much: Admission is free. Art work for sale. For information, email info@centergalleryonline.com.

This month’s Final Friday has developed into a photographic affair.

Tangent Lab in Old Town and The Midwest Center for Photography in the Douglas Design District will be hosting juried photo contests during the popular monthly art crawl.

“It’s our visual world through the photographic process,” Tangent Lab gallery owner Brad Ruder said. “The exhibit gives viewers the opportunity to view contemporary interpretations of what surrounds us.”

The shows promise to display an array of area talent and showcase emerging trends in contemporary art.

“It’s all about providing opportunities for artists,” Midwest Center for Photography gallery director Linda Robinson said. “Creative exploration is fostered by showing your work to the masses and interacting with other creative minds.”

Both competitions netted wide interest. This is the second annual show for Robinson’s gallery. She received about 65 entries from across the country. Of those, 25 artists were invited to show. Five of the artists are from Wichita or cities nearby. They are competing for a $500 fellowship award, which also will entitle the winner to representation on the gallery’s website. Robinson will act as the show’s juror.

“Highly talented artists submitted for this show,” she said. “Some are very bold in what they are doing and quite courageous in their conceptual goals of their work. One of my big goals was to get a lot of local and regional submissions, and we definitely accomplished that. I just love showing off Wichita and Midwest talent.”

One of the artists Robinson credits with pushing the envelope is Martha Fleming-Ives of Brooklyn, N.Y. Using her father as a subject, she portrays him in his role as a pastor preaching in his pulpit as well as just an ordinary man taking a lazy bath.

Ruder received nearly 250 entries from more than 50 photographers and will be displaying 50 hung works with an additional 50 images digitally streaming throughout the night. He said the exhibit, now it its fifth year, is among the most fun shows his gallery hosts. Larry Schwarm, photography instructor at Emporia State University, is the show’s juror and will select winners in several categories.

“I’m always impressed by the talent this show attracts,” Ruder said. “We have a lot of first-time showers, even some professional photographers who have never shown in a gallery. This show resonates because photography is a very open medium. People are able to wrap their minds around it.”

Robinson and Ruder took submissions in multiple genres. Portraits, landscapes, still lifes and digitally manipulated photographs will be among the images on display. Ruder took submissions for digital, film and alternative processed works. Though there is no set theme for the Tangent Lab show, Robinson noticed a trend: The trope of land and how people are affected by their connection to it weaves throughout the show.

“Just the action of going out and observing the landscape is common for photographers,” she explained. “Their tool is the camera. It’s a discovery type of medium. It’s also a tool to document as well — kind of documenting the scope of the landscape. You see that in this show with how photographers capture the state of our economy. Images of abandoned signage, decaying buildings and neglected areas show how a low economy affects not just our commerce, but the connection to our land.”

The juried shows provide opportunities for people locally and nationally to interact with the Wichita arts community. Though he focuses mainly on local and regional talent for this contest, Ruder said someone from California submitted this year. Robinson said she has seen a spike in interest nationally after opening her gallery three years ago.

“People want to come here to show. There is a fascination with Wichita and the middle of the country,” said Robinson. “It’s wide open spaces here, and there’s opportunity within those spaces.”







What: Solo Exhibition - Linda K. Robinson “Unleaded”

Where: Center Gallery, 111 Ellis, Wichita, Kansas

When: Opening reception: August 26, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. Works on display through October 21.

How much: Admission is free. Art work for sale. For information, email linda@lindakrobinson.com or info@centergalleryonline.com.

This Friday at Center Gallery, WSU Professor of Photography Linda K. Robinson debuts her most recent body of work, “Unleaded.” In this exhibit, Robinson traces her family history into the oil and gas fields of Harper and Barber County, Kansas.

Her father was a Kansas oil and gas man and would bring Linda, as a child, to these fields. Now, decades later, she revisits the rural spaces of her father’s company in a photographic series that counterbalances her maternal series ”Domestic Work,” currently on view at Naked City Gallery.

Robinson’s photographs treat the warm rust-tones of oil pumps, distant prairie horizons, and the ordinary aspects of the oil business with fascination and reverence. Her tightly focused compositions accentuate the muted colors and deep textures of the industrial equipment within the landscape. These utilitarian, man-made objects reveal the discrete histories and contributions made to the oil and gas heritage of Kansas.

This human perspective washes away the politicized nature of big oil and corrupt mega-corporations, showing yet another way Kansas land is used to sustain life in America. It reminds the viewer of the humble, yet necessary, work of many men earning a living for their families by providing a source of energy to their country.

Robinson’s willingness to delve into her family history creates a relatable narrative that taps into an important aspect of Kansas heritage.

Opening reception for “Unleaded” at Center Gallery takes place on August 26, 2011 from 7pm -10pm.





What: August Final Friday Exhibition

Where: Naked City Gallery, 121 N. Mead, Suite 104, Old Town, Wichita, Kansas

When: Opening reception, Friday, August 26, 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. Works on display through September 16.

How much: Admission is free. Art work for sale. For information, email linda@lindakrobinson.com or go to www.nakedcity.com and contact matthew@nakedcity.com.

The snapshot is a piece of art that everyday people have been creating and collecting for decades — a quickly taken intensely personal memory of a specific experience. What was once the realm of painters and later of professional photographers, the creation of images and making permanent of memories has become “everyman’s art.”  Taking from this new tradition and applying extensive research into the social and theoretical constructs behind the snapshot, Linda Robinson has developed multiple photographic series’ that may appear to be innocent and simple photographed scenes of daily American life, but in fact are heavily layered images building a compelling narrative and asking challenging questions.

“Throughout the narrative continuum of this series, the context of the snapshot genre is examined,” says Robinson. “Pointing to a commentary on the change of nostalgic notions once presented in the viewfinders of families of the 1960’s.”  Working from the starting point of the traditional family snapshot, Robinson shifts perspectives, creates color and texture in the darkroom, and re-contextualizes common objects and scenarios into a careful study of family, nostalgia, and the impact of the past.

In her series “Domestic Work” many of the images are tightly cornered in and give a strong sense of the identity of the inhabitant of these spaces, but completely leaves any actual portraiture. “Clothesline” is an image of garments strung on an out-the-window line running between two buildings. The perspective is from behind a nearly closed window at an angel that allows the viewing of only the first few feet of the line; the rest of the background is taken up by the roofline of the building across the street. The whole image, a strong cross-section of lines, is broken up only by the wheel of the clothesline. Compositionally the piece is very cross-linear and active, emoting a notion of work and purpose; there is work to be done. In hiding the view of the end of the clothesline not only does Robinson remove the connection with the outside world, she removes any possible completion — the task has no discernible end.

Throughout the series, very intimate and familiar-feeling spaces are empty and have a strong sense of loneliness or abandonment. These simple but strongly composed images carry a narrative and an exploration of what snapshots were originally intended for versus what they have actually catalogued, and what this catalogue of information reveals about the subjects involved.





Photography synergy

Linda Robinson is combining shows, workshops and lectures at Center Gallery


Eagle correspondent


What: Art gallery that is home to Midwest Center for Photography. A juried show is currently on display.

Where: Center Gallery, 111 Ellis

When: Works on display through Feb. 18. Gallery hours noon-6 p.m. each Friday, or by appointment. Call 316-269-1250.

How much: Admission free. Many works for sale.

For more information, email info@centergalleryonline.com

Linda Robinson opened Center Gallery in 2008 hoping to elevate and explore contemporary photography not only in Wichita, but also in the Midwest and nationally.

It’s only natural that Robinson would want to use the space to help educate the public — as well as emerging artists — about all aspects of photography. She is an assistant professor of photography at Wichita State University.

“This is really an extension of my work in education,” she said. “I try to educate my students to go out into the real world, and I wanted to provide them a venue in their hometown. A lot of my students aspire to be fine art photographers, and this venue can allow them to take that step.”

Center Gallery is located in the Douglas Design District on Ellis Street. Sharp white walls, hardwood flooring and high ceilings are the backdrop to a space that has a distinct cosmopolitan vibe. Yet Robinson chose the name in homage to the gallery’s place in the middle of the country.

“I believe the Midwest is getting placed on the map as an emerging arts center,” she said.

To further her mission of education and enlightenment, Robinson last month founded the Midwest Center for Photography at the gallery.

It seeks to draw in the community by offering classes, workshops and artist talks. A juried exhibition is currently on display as part of its kickoff, with 32 artists from around the country submitting photos. Robinson chose 15 artists to display their works in the show, with subject matter ranging from portraits to landscapes to still life images.

“I appreciated that there were so many artists interested in the Midwestern landscape,” Robinson said. “We had entries from all around the country, and a strong sense of what it means to be a photographer in the Midwest really rang out. These are great snapshots of our region and an honest reflection of the people who live here.”

The gallery hosts a show each month, typically opening during the Final Friday art crawl.
Robinson hopes the Midwest Center for Photography will give a more structured approach to her offering of classes and lectures, which have proven very popular. They will be held on the Thursday evening before Final Friday.

“Every time we’ve hosted an artist lecture in the past, the chairs at the gallery have been full,” she said. “”I’ve seen community interest, so I wanted to expand on it more.”
This spring, workshops will also be offered on Saturdays on a variety of topics. Most classes will last two hours and cost $50. Class topics will architecture photography, which focuses on the use of structures and buildings as subjects, and street photography, which documents life as it happens around us.

Dates and details will be announced on the gallery’s website.

Robinson hopes to achieve a creative synergy through the classes, lectures, workshops and shows at the gallery.

“Wichita has had a lack of contemporary photography galleries,” she said. “I want to help harness the creative energy that exists within the Midwest region. “



Art of our time

Think contemporary for the Faculty Biennial show at WSU.


Eagle correspondent


What: Wichita State University School of Art and Design’s exhibit of faculty work

Where: Ulrich Museum of Art on the WSU campus

When: Opening reception 6-8 p.m. Saturday. Works on display through April 3. Regular gallery hours 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri. and 1-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

How much: Reception free for Ulrich members and WSU students; $7 for nonmembers. Call 316-978-3664 or e-mail ulrich@wichita.edu for more information.

Contemporary art is the visual representation of this moment in time. It's our culture, our politics, our philosophy and our lifestyle.

Organizers of the Faculty Biennial show at the Wichita State University School of Art and Design say that’s one reason it’s appropriate to showcase the work of those who teach today’s burgeoning creative minds.

"People are very interested in the art of our time," said Patricia McDonnell, director of the Ulrich Museum of Art. "Contemporary art opens you up to examine the context of the world around you."

The works of 16 faculty artists will be unveiled Saturday for the opening of the exhibit. The evening is a chance for the public not only to see the latest in modern art, but also to interact with the teachers and students who help shape the discipline.

"Many people travel far to art fairs to gauge the pulse of contemporary art,” she said. “They can see what the temperature is by coming to the biennial."

The works on display reflect the diversity in medium and discipline across the department. They include ceramics, drawings, paintings, prints, graphic design, installations, fiber art, photography and sculpture.

Varied perspectives and vast statements can be found in the 55 works.

Ericka Walker, visiting assistant professor of printmaking, examines the history and meaning of propaganda in her lithographs. "Propaganda posters deliver a visual punch as a means of communication — to inform, reinforce, entice, or convince," she said. "I am especially interested in their visual treatment at the hands of printmakers and poster designers who have, in times of conflict, variously glorified and vilified the images and language of work, patriotism, pride and sacrifice, in an effort to circumscribe poster-length answers to excruciatingly complex issues."

Linda Robinson, assistant professor of photography, is interested in reanimating old photographs to bring attention to the theme of then and now. She displays several large, vintage snapshots of home life with focused, colored objects to reinterpret domesticity in her series “Thirty Five Years.”

"The snapshots of domestic spaces provide personal insight into the banality of the everyday, lived in the range of different places called home over the years," she said.

Dale Strattman, also a professor of photography, seeks to augment a more public realm in his works. After touring the Henry Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, he became interested in the architecture of the structure. "It was like walking through a three-dimensional, hard-edge, abstract painting," he said. He was given permission to photograph the building, and from more than 200 images, he has rearranged and juxtaposed them to create new correlations and connections. The work shows how space can be transformed and redefined, becoming a new representation of mass.

McDonnell says that one of her goals with the exhibit is to unmask the pretentiousness that some people think surrounds contemporary art. She hopes people will visit and see that modern art is for all.

The opening-night reception Saturday will feature a jazz quartet, refreshments and a chance to meet the artists





Wichita cultural events


What: Two exhibitions in conversation.

Where: Center Gallery, 111 Ellis

When: Works on display through August 21st. Gallery hours noon-6 p.m. each Friday, or by appointment. Call 316-269-1250.

How much: Admission free. Many works for sale.

For more information, email info@centergalleryonline.com

Photographer Linda Robinson thinks of her camera as a box that holds memories. “Literally,” she says breaking into a wide smile, “I am putting memories into a box.” Robinson has retrieved an interesting collection of memories from that box for her two solo photography shows, on display simultaneously at two downtown galleries through July 24 in Wichita, Kan.

Finally having her own show at Center Gallery, the gallery she owns and manages in Wichita’s Douglas Design District, “Destination” is a collection of six large-scale landscapes and seascapes with two slightly smaller photographs including a self-portrait. A few blocks away Robinson’s show, “Horizon,” is comprised of smaller photographs at the Jones Gallery, a venue inside Positive Directions in the heart of Wichita’s art district. Robinson says the two photography shows of minimalist landscapes and seascapes are “in conversation” with each other.

Telling a story as subtle as the photographs themselves, six 30-inch-square photographs hang side-by-side in "Destination" at Center Gallery. Four of the six large-scale photographs share a common horizon line – an integral part of Robinson’s story. Three of the photographs capture movement in blurry imagery. Horizon lines and movement speak directly to Robinson’s aesthetic experience.

"The six photographs in this show are about searching for what’s on the horizon – not only in the photographs themselves, but in life, too,” she says. “A photographer is always looking to capture a scene and an artist is always looking to the future.” Robinson’s looking into the future is captured in the photographs with horizon lines as subject matter. The work and momentum of searching for that ideal horizon is portrayed in the three blurred photographs.

Working with a medium-format Hasselblad camera, Robinson says, “I like to capture on film the feeling of the places I’ve called home.” Robinson has called Kansas home most of her life and the terrain of the first photograph, “Kansas Landscape, Reno County, Kansas,” will be familiar to anyone in the Midwest. A barely blue, almost white sky and a deep green wheat field share the composition equally. A typically clear Kansas horizon line splits the photograph in two and addresses the clarity with which Robinson views her native Kansas. She says the photograph is actually about movement. “I like to stand at the edge of a wheat field and watch the wind in the wheat.” She points out that wheat breaks in waves, like the sea. This will not be the last time Robinson points out the topographical similarities between Kansas and California landscapes.

Continuing that same horizon line into the next identically sized photograph, “Driving Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California,” is a streak of green and orange ice plants on the side of the highway. Robinson says, “These driving shots have to do with the transitory nature of being in California. Although it was home for four years, being in grad school I knew I was just passing through.” Indeed. A hand-held camera shooting from a moving car has created a blur of coastal vegetation that expresses beautifully the experience of just passing through.

Back to the calm of the first photograph and picking up the horizon line again, “Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California” is a study in whites. In the show, this photograph is the most minimalist as the white-overcast sky and white descending fog obscure the vanishing horizon line in the white ocean’s distance. Waves crest and break in splashes of white and roll over the white sand into the foamy white foreground. Printing an all-white photograph is always difficult and this study of white on white on white, printed masterfully, is testimony to Robinson’s technical skill.

“Pacific Coast Highway, Half Moon Bay, California,” is another photograph shot from a moving car. “The car window acts as viewfinder for me,” Robinson says. Her technique, of hand-holding a camera out the window and waiting for her moment, just the right clump of trees in this case, works beautifully. Clearly looking up the highway, Robinson says this photograph speaks to the excitement of getting closer and closer to San Francisco.

Just as “Ocean Beach” was a study in whites, “Muir Beach Overlook, Marin County, California,” is a study in aquamarines. Maybe it takes the eye of a flatlander from Kansas to appreciate fully the magic of getting above a landscape and changing the vantage point from which it is seen. There is more than the color that is mesmerizing about “Muir Beach Overlook,” Taken from a cliff in Muir Woods and looking out at the Pacific ocean, the high vantage point helped Robinson capture the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. This photograph looks deep into the cloud-filled sky and far out, into the haze-obscured, empty sea. The barely discernible horizon, again picking up the horizon line of Robinson’s first and third photographs, brings us back to a feeling of calm.

The final print in the series, “Eucalyptus Trees, San Francisco, California” is another photograph taken from a moving car. This photograph speaks to movement again and the transitory nature of modern experience and Robinson’s own searching within the city for a horizon line. In this sixth photograph our journey with Robinson is complete. We’ve gone from the waving wheat fields of Kansas to the Presidio in San Francisco, where city, land and sea collide. Robinson says she looks at the last print and remembers the overwhelming fragrance of the eucalyptus trees.

Robinson explains that being from Kansas, whether she is in a city or the mountains she is always looking for a horizon line. Speaking of the Kansas experience Robinson says, “We get out of the city and we can see forever. Some find that disturbing. I find it calming.” In this show every-other photograph jumps back to the calming composition with the horizon line, clear or obscured, splitting the composition in half. Looking at the clear Kansas horizon or the obscured San Francisco horizon Robinson says, “I couldn’t find any other aesthetic that spoke to me.” In “Destination,” calm imagery interspersed with the blurriness of every-other photograph reminds the viewer that to find a horizon involves a search.

“I am always looking for that minimalist view,” Robinson says. And this is what “Destination,” at Center Gallery has captured. But, a few blocks away, “Horizon” Robinson’s solo show at the Jones Gallery features smaller photographs that address the search for those views and rely on more of what Robinson calls the snapshot genre to speak to people. “When I back up a bit from those minimalist views it shows the experience of being there,” she says. Indeed this collection of smaller prints is still a comparative study of California and Kansas. But in many of these prints we are more aware of the photographer being in the environment. “These images are about driving the Pacific Highway. They have a different aesthetic than the formalist view of the photographs in ‘Destination’” Robinson says.

Robinson says of her time in California, “I would need to get away from grad school so I would find a peaceful place to sit and get mesmerized by the waves and then the light coming through the cresting waves. I wanted to capture that color and that movement.” “Wave Sequence,” 1 through 5, does that in spades. Seeing the series and the movement of the ocean on the beach, we are more aware of the photographer’s presence in the landscape.

The comparison in landscapes continues throughout the show. Looking up in Hollywood, Robinson photographs the quintessential Los Angeles image – the tops of palm trees. Looking up in Sedgwick County, Kan., an electric pole and electric wires covered with birds is the iconic image. The show jumps back and forth comparing the two experiences beautifully – Kansas and California. Ultimately, we sense a bit of belonging and a disorientation in both the Kansas images and the California images.

The two shows, “Destination” at Center Gallery and “Horizon” at the Jones Gallery are in conversation with each other. In them, Robinson explores the intermittent blurriness of a continued search and the clarity of reaching a destination and finding that horizon line. In the end, Robinson says, “The act of getting to the ideal horizon through photographing the traveling renders the experience to be the destination,” Robinson says. “Something is always out on the horizon. I am interested in the psychological implications of the unknown horizon and the prospect of the future.”

Linda Robinson explores her environments looking for ideal horizons as a way to engage with her surroundings. She saves her memories into a box in the form of photographs. Through her photography, Robinson shares the journey with us. In doing so, the conversation is now not just between the artist and her environment, the past and the future, the two states – Kansas and California, or between the two shows – “Destination” and “Horizon.” The conversation now includes us.

Center Gallery is the located in Wichita’s Douglas Design District and is dedicated to exploring the medium of photography. The gallery promotes an appreciation and understanding of contemporary photography and its evolving role in current culture through the organization and presentation of exhibitions for emerging and mid-career artists. The exhibitions are exciting and innovative and effectively engage regional, national and international audiences.

For more info: Linda Robinson photography. 

Center Gallery, Wichita, Kan., 

The Jones Gallery, Wichita, Kan.

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