Divergent destinations

New photography exhibit from Stivers School for the Arts

By Jud Yalkut

Tom Patterson, “Devil’s Tower Moonrise”

Tom Patterson, “Devil’s Tower Moonrise”

The Fifth Street Gallery at the Stivers School for the Arts is a professional exhibition space that services both its students as well as members of the community.
The current exhibition, running through November 4, is a striking amalgam of two area photographers who are showing extensive examples from their photographic excursions to landscapes in both American and exotic realms.

Described as “hauntingly beautiful and majestically intricate,” this appellation aptly applies to both artists. The intensive submersion into the monastic world of the Armenian mountains by Dayton native Robert Breen reveals the confrontation of a tumultuous past lurching into a modern age, and vast skies over “pools of refracted sunlight … and shapes formed by erosion” complement the vision of Tom Patterson’s Wyoming sunrises and sunsets.

Breen earned his bachelor’s degree from Fairfield University in Connecticut, and his images have received extensive coverage in publications as varied as Carolina Women, the Chatham County Line and the Our State North Carolina magazine where he was named a North Carolina Wildlife Photographer of the Year. A trip to Armenia in 2011 yielded the body of work from which brilliant samples are exhibited in this show.

The printing of his Armenian images onto fine watercolor paper imparts an uncanny painterly sensibility to Breen’s striking images. The snow-encrusted image of the Noravank Monastery has an unearthly softness combined with clarity with its frosted cupola, multi-toned structural stones and rocky remains of auxiliary walls.

A view from the elegant but primitively constructed double-arched Noravank Monastery Church Window looks out to a direct view of the cupola-topped tower.

The coned cupola of the Geghard Monastery rises over three color-graduated stone levels under the spectacular, architecturally curved rocky spires of the mountain landscape, and the angular structures of the Haghartsin Monastery form ghostly presences in the mountainous fog. Seen from above, the Marmashen Monastery nestles in a valley surrounded by smoky hills, and the Tatev Monastery is seen from below its dizzying perch while a cascading waterfall makes its long, tortuous descent.

Breen includes several photographs from various points of the Genocide Memorial April 24, a grim historical event in Armenian history, with a prayer in an Orthodox shrine, the slanting monoliths of the memorial site at 7 a.m. and a lone silhouetted figure doing obeisance at the inner eternal flame. A bright moment of humanity is conveyed in the subtly smiling face of a bread seller at the Geghard Monastery displaying gigantic shining loaves of symbol-encrusted loaves.

Tom Patterson, also a Dayton native, attended Sinclair Community College and Wright State University, graduating from Eastern New Mexico University in 1989 with his B.S. in Wildlife Management and a minor in Geology. He has collaborated with Dan Patterson, a graduate of Wright State in 1976 and the noted photographer of the book “The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk.” A panoramic view of the Modern Flight Gallery (2009) at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force is a dramatic collaboration by Tom and Dan Patterson included in this show.

In consonance with the monastery images by Robert Breen is a delightful little print by Patterson of the Church on Spilled Bloud (2010) in St. Petersburg, Russia with its multi-leveled cupolas against a densely fleeced sky. Rows of angled gravestones are seen in the black and white Confederate Graves Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, and antique skewed tombstones are aligned in Old Granary Burying Ground (2011) in Boston. A dramatic black and white symmetric view of a bridge is seen the convergence of Under Roebling, an earlier composition from 2005.

From Wisconsin, we see the curving arches and ornate stone traceries from the even earlier Wisconsin State Capitol-West Gallery (2003). Western landscapes have been a special exploration for Tom Patterson and some of his most effective landscapes come from this series, including the isolated promontories of the Devil’s Kitchen (2010) in Wyoming, the highly texturized crenellations of parched Travertine and Thermophiles, the mistily spray-surrounded rocks at the Castle Geyser (2010) in Yellowstone and the beautifully intricate spiraling of Ripples in Hot Yellowstone National Park (2010).

The vastness of the sense of space out west is effectively captured in the fringed clouds hanging above a Grand Tetons Sunrise, and the dark mass contrasted with the long-lying lunar disc in Devil’s Tower Moonset (2010). There are a couple of images of spread-eagled and leaping dancers in Kim (2010) and Chadonn (2009), but the most subtly affecting images by Patterson may well be the trio of delicate black and white magnifications of close-cropped Water Hyacinths (2011) with graceful curves, some accented by glistening rain drops.

The Stivers School for the Arts Fifth Street Gallery is located at 1313 E. 5th St. in Dayton. Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call the magnet office at (937) 542-7448.

Reach DCP freelance writer Jud Yalkut at JudYalkut@DaytonCityPaper.com.

Jud Yalkut
NY born, moved to Ohio in 1973 to be Assistant Professor of Art at Wright State University (1973-1977); in NYC taught at School for Visual Arts, York College of the City University, and NYU Continuing Ed; six-time recipient of OAC Individual Artist Fellowings (including one in Criticism); 2005 Ohioana Citation in the Visual Arts in Ohio; 2003 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District.

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