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Boundless Ways of Seeing

August 10, 2001

On a warm and recent Sunday afternoon, I sat by a window at Bongo Billy’s and read a book. I looked up idly from the page and saw Kat sitting on the deck.

She had been reading, but now she held her book to her chest and her face to the sun, eyes closed, blissfully content. The shadow from the grain elevator was already on her shoulder. This was the last of her sunbeam, and she was relishing it.

I would have loved to paint this picture. But since I don’t have the necessary talent, I next thought I might like to photograph it. But I don’t have the skill for that, either, or the equipment, and or the patience to keep a camera with me to record what I see.

So, I have to remember.

I still remember well a similar scene from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, more than twenty years ago. In an old brick building at a tall, open window stood a grizzled black man with his face turned to the sun. He leaned on his broom handle with both hands such that he appeared to be praying.

He stood in perfect repose. Below him bustled people left and right, but he remained still above it all like a figure in a cathedral caught in a sunbeam.

Fine photographs are records, of course, but they make for a richer accounting of the world than, say, a Polaroid taken for insurance purposes. They often challenge our ability to articulate what we see in them that is unique and delightful, although we see it nonetheless.

This raises epistemological questions we shall ignore. Consider that you can always have a joke explained to you, but it’s really better just to get it. We may have to get back to this topic one day, but right now you, Dear Reader, are pressed for time.

We are discussing photography, and you have until 5:00 p.m. Sunday to see a really, really fine exhibit of works by eight photographers from around the country, now showing at the Buena Vista Courthouse. The show is sponsored by the Chaffee County Council on the Arts and is expertly curated by Dan Downing and Fay Golson.

I like the title of the show: “Boundless ways of seeing.” Each photographer’s work is distinctly different from the others in the exhibit. With such a variety of excellence, I felt as if I’d just been through an extensive gallery, although without the exhaustion that often follows a museum visit.

I could pick a favorite piece, if I were pressed: “Lotus stems and cloud reflections” by David H. Gibson. If someone slipped a thousand dollars into my hand and said, “You must choose,” the lotus stems would be it.

But I could quite happily own or discuss any of the works in the exhibit. Phil Harris’s prints are the smallest on display. I thought “Kafka’s view of the Jewish Cemetery,” which is in Prague, to be perfect in a small print.

The landscapes by Bruce Barnbaum, Don Kirby, and Gibson are exquisite. The prints are large and impressive, and yet you are lured in to examine them closely.

Walter Nelson’s “sculpture relief paintings” are beautifully colored Giclee prints. As best I could tell, photographs of relief assemblages are digitized and then printed on an Iris printer.

No room for more, although I hate to leave the others out. One last thing: technical expertise. Don’t miss this excellent, professional show.

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