1 February - 28 February, 2019
Barbara Parmet. Steven Gilbar. Jeffrey Aaronson.
Photography is my connection to physical and emotional territories where I find creativity, discourse, exploration and ultimately refuge in both the natural world and imagined world. The photographic process allows me to visualize my search for understanding intangible inner realms of being. In order to do this, I focus on unveiling the essential properties and paradoxes of a complex set of historical and mythological codes. I construct images using the elemental symbols of art, wind, fire and water atop layers of the human condition, often utilizing those substances to add a nuanced complexity.
In order to build these images, I start with an emotional experience within the physical world. Literary and historical sources help me to articulate what is going on inside. I look for symbols and myths that help tell the story. Utilizing costume and set design, I often reference sculpture and drawing as part of the process. Once I have collected the necessary imagery, I combine and layer the constructions with antique and digital technology. Printing methods can include silver, platinum, solar plate etching and chromogenic inks on fabric, wood and paper substrates. Depending on the poetic expression necessary to distill the essential elements into a new narrative, I use a variety of capture devices ranging from large and medium format to underwater photography.
It is my hope to elicit a visceral response to the ideas and personal narratives in my work. I wish to create more introspection than answers and to lead the viewers to step outside themselves and find new pathways, both emotional and physical, on which to walk.
There is no overarching basis or theme to my work. In a "normal" show the artist is exhibiting a body of work over a short period of time, usually with a consonant theme. The work here, on the other hand, was done over fifteen years and I had different interests at different times. A good deal of it is pure whimsy. Some of the pieces were experiments in abstract expressionism, color theory, and mixing-up media; others were just visual puns. Many deal with literary themes, s subject which has interested me as a writer. Many were just experimenting with different ideas. I guess the best way to look at is that it is a retrospective of myriad and diverse works.
As to biography, I did not have any formal art training, so I guess that makes my work "outsider art." Although I have participated in several workshops given by outstanding collage artists. I have exhibited at just about every venue in town, including Susan Tibbles' Tennis Club shows, Gray Space Gallery (most recently a dual show with collagist Angela Holland), Santa Barbara Arts (Arcata Plaza), many exhibits with the Abstract Art Collective at the Faullkner and other venues, as well as SB Art Association and Carpinteria Art Association shows. And need I mention, many local coffee bars and restaurants
I am also the author/editor of more than twenty books. I have written widely of Santa Barbara’s literary history, including the definitive Literary Santa Barbara: Between Great Mountains and a Great Sea (written with Dean Stewart), as well as Tales of Santa Barbara, Red Tiles and Blue Skies: More Tales of Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Stories, and Literary Landscapes (with photographs by Peter Treadwell). In 2017 I edited Library Book, a celebration of the SB Library's centennial.
Jeffrey Aaronson’s series of photographs, Maybe its You, explores the age-old issue of identity in an intriguingly 21st-century way. After finding written descriptions in online personals profiles—specifically those who posted advertisements without photos—Aaronson sought out those subjects whose words intrigued him and askedthem to sit for his camera. Before the official shoot, each read his or her posting aloud into a tape recorder, expressing self-revelations, romantic yearnings, and desired qualities in a potential mate.
The upshot is a multi-dimensional form of portraiture, a genre which has been with us since ancient times and has always sought to present subjects according to the esthetics of the day. The intent might be a warts-and-all realism, as in Roman portraiture, or the soft-focus flattery of artists as diverse as Gainsborough and Renoir. But contemporary technology, in Aaronson’s hands, makes possible a more layered experience.
Photographic portraiture, which has been around since the invention of the camera in the early 19th century, has its own traditions, beginning with the stiff Daguerreotypes and studio shots of artists like Nadar and continuing up to the present day with the autobiographical disclosures of Nan Goldin or the fanciful deconstructions of Cindy Sherman. Aaronson uses a custom-made, 20-by-24-inch field camera fitted with a Polaroid back that bridges this history and is a curious marriage of 19th-century technology and up-to-the minute production: the Polaroid film for this project results in larger-than-life, 20-by-24-inch prints which are then reproduced as 30-by-40-inch Digital Chromogenic Prints. And the installation as a whole asks some searching questions about who we are in the age of rampant online information-sharing: How do we construct a personality? What are we looking for in ourselves and others? And ultimately how do others see us and judge us?