February 21 – March 27, 2008
Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture
The opening reception for “Uncommon Places: Photography by Brian Stethem” will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in CLU’s Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture.
Brian Stethem has lived and worked in Southern California for more than two decades.
The camera provides him with a tool with which to explore the world, at home and abroad.
This exhibition presents one area of thematic concentration of Brian’s oeuvre: landscapes.
Brian happened upon these landscapes during his travels in the United States, Mexico, China, Ireland, Scotland, Greece, and Germany. Thirty photographs survey a variety of sites: from spacious, rural areas to edgy urban locales; from popular tourist destinations to Hollywood suburbia; and from hallowed cultural landmarks to historical monuments haunted by violent tragedy.
Certain photographs study the aesthetics of decay and renewal: in California, an abandoned, skeletal farmhouse stands in dust and dry brush as nature slowly reclaims its territory. Other images suggest different kinds of renewal: in a seemingly random view of a city street in south Los Angeles, new construction takes place– the site where the 1991 police beating of Rodney King occurred, sparking the L.A. riots. Is this manmade gesture of renewal an attempt to heal civic wounds or to conceal painful memories?
These images show us how memories and myths shape our perceptions of place. A misty vista of a Scottish land – and waterscape is a case in point. Once we realize that this is Loch Ness — home to the fabled monster – the curvilinear forms of the topography offer new interpretive possibilities.
Brian notes incongruities or ironic juxtapositions: the ancient Parthenon at the Acropolis, Athens, built of pristine marble and once used for sacred worship, now adored by busloads of tourists; the posse of fancy automobiles parked in front of the notorious Playboy Mansion – an eerie, ‘David Lynch-like’ quiet pervades. Meanwhile, somewhere inside, yet another wild party is taking place.
Places have biographies, these photographs insist, and each landscape has a story to tell. While landscapes are the ostensible subject of this exhibition, these images simultaneously tell us about ourselves – of our evolving relationship with ‘place’ and the inherent ‘politics’ of viewing. Brian’s landscapes suggest how we might revisit the places and locales in our own lives with fresh eyes.
Christine Sellin PhD
Ventura County Star article on Brian here.