In its main gallery for March, Viewpoint Photographic Art Center presents the art of Raven Victoria Erebus and Gail Parris in an exhibition titled Avian Studies. While all of prints in the exhibit begin with photographs of birds, both artists employ sophisticated image-processing and printing techniques to create pictures with an intent much different from the description that is the dominate feature of “straight” photography.
Raven Victoria Erebus: The Language of Birds
“Beauty is all around us,” avers Raven Victoria Erebus; “it’s ordinary and stunning, secretive and fleeting, cold and struggling, singing down the sun.” In The Language of Birds, Erebus demonstrates the depth of her commitment to that beauty.
“Because I struggle with a chronic disability,” she explains, “my work concentrates on the everyday world surrounding me, much of it not beyond my driveway.” She attends to the birds that visit her yard with “fresh curious eyes” and a camera she refers to as “my spirit box.” But capturing the images is just the beginning. Digitally processing the images, she often combines the photographs of birds with other elements such as text and background patterns; then she turns to the labor-intensive process of photogravure to make the final prints. “Each print is an hour long meditation,” she says, “as I ink the plates, then slowly wipe off the ink, add in new colors, and wipe most of it away again. At the end, I put dampened paper and the carefully inked plate through an etching press.” The process results in archival prints with beautiful texture and tonal range, and with a decidedly handmade feel.
Erebus has been making art of one form or another her whole life. She honed her technical skills as a photographer at the University of New Mexico. After graduating from Mills College, she worked in the software industry with a focus on visual media software such as Flash. “Most recently,” she says, “I’ve maintained my sanity by taking pictures.” She lives in the Bay Area, where she continues her artistic education at Foothill College and is affiliated with San Jose Printers Guild and Foothill Printmaking Studio. She is represented by Modernbook Gallery in San Francisco. Her website is trollop.com.
Gail Parris: The Artistry of Birds
In The Artistry of Birds, Gail Parris emulates the look and feel of Japanese and other woodblock prints, attempting to capture the "spirit" of the bird in a way similar to Inuit stone prints. She photographs the birds against simple backgrounds, or uses various techniques to deemphasize the backgrounds when digitally processing the images. For clarity and strength of composition, she’ll sometimes move or delete objects, or composite elements from separately captured images. When the image has the aesthetic and evocative qualities she seeks, she prints it on photographic mulberry paper to deepen the connection to Japanese prints. Sometimes she further enhances the print with a bit of hand-coloring.
The result of Parris’s work after the initial camera exposure is to create prints that have more in common with works in non-photographic print media than with traditional photography. However, Parris does not eschew the photographic origin of the images; the photographic detail in the depiction of the birds is an essential counterpoint to the simplification of the other elements.
Gail Parris has always needed a creative outlet in her life, and while she has occasionally worked in other media, the one constant throughout her artistic life has been photography. As a child she was given a camera by her parents and accompanied them on their photographic journeys. Over the years she has created work in many photographic styles, but her primary impulse has been artistic rather than documentary. She has exhibited widely in the Sacramento area and beyond, winning numerous awards, and is represented by Blue Moon Gallery.
Raven Victoria Erebus—The Language of Birds
Raven Victoria Erebus— To Find a Place
Raven Victoria Erebus—Raven Becoming
Gail Parris—Flying Tern
Gail Parris—Barn Owl in a Misty Morning
Gail Parris—Redwing Blackbird