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Poetics of Place:
Dick Arentz, Nancy Tokar Miller and Gordon Whitten


Exhibition: Poetics of Place
Nancy Tokar Miller, paintings
Gordon Whitten, photographs
Dick Arentz, photographs

Location: Etherton Gallery - 135 S. Sixth Avenue

Hours: 11-5 Tuesday - Saturday, 11-7 Thursday

Exhibition Dates: February 21 – April 8th, 2006

Reception: February 25th, 7-10 p.m.

Contact: Jerre Johnston - 624-7370

Photographers Gordon Whitten and Dick Arentz and painter, Nancy Tokar Miller, chronicle the contemplative forms of nature and the poetic presence of place in photographs and paintings that combine flashes of insight mingled with moments of light.


Nancy Tokar Miller: Nancy Tokar Miller’s paintings are luminous abstractions evocative of landscape and the “suchness” of things both natural and concrete. In paintings that are a paean to the sensory pleasures of color and light, Miller’s abstract and personal repertoire of shape, color, line and gesture focuses on color sensations with references to the relationships between architecture and landscape. Formed in the middle to late seventies, Miller’s style is characterized by a stained ground punctuated by opposing colors that accent the surface of her substrates, be they canvas or paper, and elucidate the depth of field.

Miller’s painting happens in the elemental realm where form and color are unified. Self-generating and referential, they are imbued with the infinite recesses of oceanic space and light. Her color sense is suggestive; colors are fluid and luminous, reflecting an inner state of consciousness. Not specifically red or green, blue or yellow, her colors are allegories of an organic process, some weighted with earth, others buoyed by liquefaction. Carefully laid washes are translucent and disembodied, yet immediate and tactile, demonstrating a lapidary fascination with both surface and the “objectness” of form. Miller’s sense of space resonates along the route of dense statement and vaporous suggestion; this rebounding motivates a reading of the space that suggests a binocular view of the same area focused two different ways. These shifts of focus signal the inner and outer limits of space while demonstrating the perceptual complexity of “seeing and feeling, making, and making sense.”

Imagery is influenced by trips to Japan, Thailand, Tahiti, Hawaii, the Cayman Islands, Spain, the ruins of Tulum and Coba in the Yucatan, Bali, Morocco, and the Temple Mountains of Angkor, Cambodia. Miller’s interest in the vesture of cultures is a primary catalyst for her source work. She synthesizes the effects of landscape and other recollected sensations, often melding the subtleties of her sense memories spontaneously. Combing the moments of random contact with the world, Miller takes her cues from a Hindu temple, the sway of a bamboo pole swathed in cloth, or the breath of wind in a tropical frond. Even when the landscape reference is specific, as in her 2004 series from Tucson’s Agua Caliente Park, Miller distills the inherent beauty of her surroundings and imbues them with mysterious autonomy.

Her current body of work is a blending of three different series that include various sites from the Temple Mountains of Angkor, calligraphic variations of Sandhill Cranes and the elemental forms of Japanese tea bowls. Elegant and serene, this series is characterized by an economy of brush strokes that communicate the essence of the subjects she references. Much like Sumi-e painting it is the simplicity of gestural line and form infused with opaque and translucent color that conjures an array of sensate associations. Red flecked blues, moss greens, and pollen yellows fuse in a conjuring of those moments of suchness that sustain us ?the annual return of the cranes, the dark lights of purple and black in tea bowl, the upwelling beneath the pond’s surface. Miller mediates the matrix of sensations “between the arena of the picture’s formal concerns and the deep space of emotion,” combining her sense of place with a sensuous fiction that radiates light.

Dick Arentz: From dense rain forests to the bronzed stillness of the lakes of Milford Sound in New Zealand, the poetic presence of tangible reality is reflected in Arentz’s platinum/palladium prints. Dick Arentz’s imagistic repertoire extends from a corner of a small town America, a cathedral in Great Britain, to Stonehenge, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and the British Isles.
Like Frederick Evans who was a master at exploiting the subtle range of tones in the platinum print and combining this with photographic definition, Arentz realizes a similar union of delicacy and structural intuition. A range of rich tonalities, depth, and a unique sense of pictorial space and place form the crux of his work.

Arentz shoots with a 12X20 antique “banquet” camera, and a 7X17 view camera. His images are direct contact prints. With its exposure to intense ultra violet light, and its patinated surface texture, the platinum print has a very long tonal scale, its basic image color ranging from delicate silvery-grays to a tinge of rose-brown. Seduced by the beauty and method of the platinum process, Arentz demonstrates the insubstantiality of the physical world with techniques that eliminate detail and invite reverie.

Gordon Whitten: Formal poise and lushly nuanced colors characterize the ambience of Gordon Whitten’s photographs. The compelling visual quality of Whitten’s work is rendered in sharp detail and rich color, as he states, “’much as painter uses paint and brushes I use what lies before me.”
Whitten’s landscape photography carries the sensuous immanence of nature within the context of the well-ordered formal arrangement of pictorial structure. His compositional arrangements are, he says, “not about landscape so much as they are line and space. I am intrigued by the creation of the abstract from the concrete.” Shooting with 4X5 and 8X10 large format cameras, from which he prints 30x40 Cibachrome prints, Whitten’s range of focus moves us through panoramic vistas of Wiamea Canyon in Hawaii, to cascades of water in the Great Smoky Mountains. As he accumulates the evocative nature of light and form his imagery evokes a contemplative response from the viewer.


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