A unique exhibition, which presents two completely different artists working in authentic traditions of printmaking and photography media, is still on view at the Hinterland gallery. This article is about the artworks of Bailey Russel, who shows a one-of-a-kind commitment to his craft.
A photography professor at the University of Wyoming, Russel uses one of the oldest photography practices, camera obscura. This technique employs a whole room-turned-camera. In the Western art, it was first used during the Renaissance to help artists create realistic representations of space. This method led to the invention of camera, which duplicates the process – cameras obscura are large rooms, completely dark with only a small hole through which the outside light can pass, much like a camera. An image of outside surroundings is projected on the back wall of camera obscura upside down and backwards. Artists then painted over this impression.
Like the Renaissance artists, Russel turned apartments and offices into cameras obscura and exposed photographic sheets of paper for up to an hour, so that the image was recorded directly onto it – such a process requires a real dedication. The photographer then printed the negatives in rich beautiful colors that let viewers to take a different look at urban settings. Russell photographed in Seattle and New York, but the metropolitan streets don’t look anything like what you’d expect – they don’t resemble the busy streets because long exposures don’t record any moving objects, only what stays stationed. So, the images reveal only urban architecture and trees.
Russel’s images look rather surreal. There is a commentary on the relationships between modern metropolitan settings and nature. Perhaps, it is a chance to look solely on the city, without the distraction from its inhabitants – a very unusual opportunity.
Russel is mostly working with old-fashioned methods. When he is not employing camera obscura, he wonders around the city with a handmade camera that exposes photographic paper in it, too. It is a transportable mini-version of camera obscura. The resulting 8 by 10 negatives are also present in the show.
However, the key photograph of the exhibition is a three-piece large image that almost spreads from floor to the ceiling. The colossal artwork allows the viewer to examine the details and to take in the urban atmosphere. Intense and deep colors take this experience to the next level. If you want to experience these grand cities without leaving Denver, head on to the Hinterland.
You can read about the other artist presented in the exhibition, Mark Ritchie, in the previous article from November 26.