Mark the date: Saturday, October 17. That evening, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., Gallery RIVAA invites everyone to the opening reception for a thoughtfully considered new show, "Four Photographers."
Photography does not always get its due with visual artist associations. Longtime associations with painting and sculpture limit art lovers’ openness to a style that some imagine anyone with a digital phone can accomplish.
But as these standout RIVAA photographers show, that idea makes no more sense than thinking that anyone with a brush and some paint can do what Rembrandt or Norman Rockwell did. Can anyone with a lens match Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter?
Anne-Marie Dannenberg, Piotr Olszewski, Alex Movshovich, and Piaskowski say “No.” There’s more to this art than a click and a save to Instagram.
The pictures in this show make clear that excellence in any creative art is more than an expression of having mastered tools. Creative minds and inquisitive natures inform the photographs in "Four Photographers."
An early peak at some of the pictures you will see exposes a unifying theme: personal vision related to nature and figures. As exhibit organizer Piaskowski sees it, the “theme involves the beauty in grass, nature, the human form, places and our connection to them.”
Most of the pictures are homegrown, photographs of these artists’ discoveries on Roosevelt Island.
“Last winter was so long and frosty,” Piaskowski adds about her own contributions, emphasizing the pictorial inspiration she finds near home. “With spring and summer, the community garden was bursting with vibrant color, and the grass was long and blowing furtively in the wind near the Tram. To me, this was a sign of hope and renewal.”
“My images for this show,” she continues, “are painterly and pattern-like, recognizing the beauty of the sometimes more humble plants.”
One photograph, "Succulent," is so vividly detailed in a closeup, you feel like you can almost climb into the black background behind the mint-green leaves.
As with paintings and photographs of hers that have been reviewed in The WIRE over the years, Piaskowski accomplishes the finest goal of visual art: she shows you something true that you might not have seen without her shared vision.
Also shooting in color is Peter Olszewski. His photos are dazzlingly organic, finding startling variations in natural fields of color.
“My vision is about places and our connection to them,” he explains. “There is something grounding in grass and its movement. A new and strange place often brings back memories of people we love and relate to.”
Olszewski’s untitled prints do more than that. Featuring wild grasses in extreme detail, they capture vivid patterns forced by nature.
Of his photography, Alexander Movshovich says, “There is nothing more beautiful then naked nature, whether it’s tree, grass, stones, or body. That is what attracts me and gives an inspiration to my heart.”
By “naked nature,” at least here, he means something more daring. He means black and white, the form and texture of things in the real world stripped of color, leaving the poetry of composition clean and crisp.
In one exciting example, a nude woman stretches into a rite-of-spring pose, standing like sculpture on one of Roosevelt Island’s natural rock formations. A row of trees, still leafless from winter, form a screen in front of her. In the background, the far less sensual buildings along Manhattan’s shoreline rest in contrast, their feet also anchored on stone.
Rounding out "Four Photographers," Anne-Marie Dannenberg offers black and white images from a book she is working on that relates grass to Japanese calligraphy. “I try to bring out the poetry and the music of grasses by looking at their lines, movement, and fluidity. I have always wondered at their variety, gentleness, freshness, and simple and modest beauty,” she says, detailing similarities with the delicate art of calligraphy.
The examples she has brought to this exhibit will make you look forward to the book. The lines discovered in her work are delicate, curling, reflecting and flowing with the wind. Her wise use of black-and-white photography helps make the creative statement.
"Four Photographers" runs from its opening on October 17 through November 15. RIVAA’s main gallery is on the street level at 527 Main Street. Gallery hours are 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.