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"Night Lights" at DNJ Gallery
by rebecca leib
May 2010

Blue Man
Bill Sosin
Archival inkjet print, 18" x 12"
Photo: courtesy DNJ Gallery

Helen K. Garber, Ginny Mangrum, and Bill Sosin are all very different photographers, and it might take one a while to understand the continuative thread that links the three artists in DNJ Gallery's "Night Lights." Bill Sosin sees light and moisture through windowpanes--upon first glance it seems Sosin takes a laissez-faire approach to his abstractions. With further scrutiny, however, one can see the careful construction of color and shape glazed over beautifully muddled stories. Sosin walks a thin line between letting the light be his guide and exerting control over his photographic space, and this push and pull is an enjoyable thing to experience. Helen K. Garber's work speaks to the juxtaposition between the modern and the old. Her pieces are tied together by similar subject matter being perceived in two different eras, two different places. There is a deliberate treatment in her work-- darkening, a printing on canvas--that emphasizes the nostalgic quality of looking at the old and the new, of appropriating memory. Since the subject is her anchor, Garber has free reign of making comparisons and treating her photographs for emotional emphasis. Though her comparisons seem simplistic, they are never pretentious and unabashedly show the love Garber has for her subject matter. Ginny Mangrum's work deals with light through everyday subject matter--a restaurant, a shop, a latrine. Mangrum's inventive use of light and negative space made her pieces a triumph only emphasized by the creepy, voyeuristic quality of her work. The viewer is looking in--and never out--of Mangrum's photographs. The outwardness that the viewer feels undulates from nostalgia to intrusion, making her contribution to the show perhaps the most intriguing.

"Night Lights" is really held together through the approach to photographic nostalgia. All three artists really speak to the power of the digital image (it's continuously impressive to see how great photography can be without traditional film) but especially, their treatment of this technology. The artists stretch the capability of the medium while infusing emotion--and perspective--into each of their theses. "Night Lights" lets the viewer look as a happy outsider, into worlds made artfully possible by the inside of one's memory.

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