Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy Yashowanto Ghosh
This season’s first show at Aquinas College’s Art & Music Center Gallery, “Living Among Alaska’s Volcanoes: My Kind of Wilderness,” featuring 20 digital photographs and five graphite drawings by Gary Freeburg, opened on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Freeburg’s life, which I read about on his website before I went to his show, is interesting in its own right. He served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam war, after which he had a formal college education in art, culminating in an M.F.A. at the University of Iowa. He spent 25 years in Alaska, where he was a college professor of art, directing the art program and curating the art gallery on his college’s campus. His work in Alaska has even been the subject of a 2010 documentary film, “An Artist’s Journey to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes: The Photography of Gary Freeburg.” Currently he is a professor of art at James Madison University.
The pieces in the show are from two locations. Of the photographs, ten are from the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes of the documentary film. The other ten are from Aniakchak National Monument, Alaska. Four drawings are from the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and one is from Aniakchak National Monument. The pieces have elaborate and highly specific titles, such as “Katmai Pass As Seen from the Summit of Baked Mountain with a View of Falling Mountain (Left) and Mount Cerberus (Right).” Such titles are necessary to match the precision and detail in the hard focus with which the artist has frozen volcanic fire in all but one of the photographs. Just one of the photographs, “Avalanche Sweeps and Descending Fog, Southeast Crater Rim of Aniakchak Volcano,” uses areas of softer texture. Freeburg’s website mentions that he has worked with Ansel Adams, and the Group f/64 aesthetic is palpable in his work. The piece I thought most remarkable is the photograph “Ice Floes, Southwest Maar,” where the ice floes are floating in perfectly still water, creating a sensation of weightlessness, which you would read as anything from mystical to surreal, depending upon your own state of mind.
The five drawings are different, with frenzied jagged lines, and Professor Dana Freeman said Freeburg thought the drawings more representative of the reality of tactile sensory images he experienced on the ground in Alaska—more representative, that is, than the stillness in the photographs.
There will be a reception at the show for Homecoming from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23. Freeman added that the artist himself will visit campus the following week, when there will be a unique opportunity to walk through the show with him between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28. This last event will even have pizza.
The show itself will be open until Friday, Sept. 29.