“Slabs and Stitches” an experiment in landscapes

Beneath the Phillips Hall School of Art is the subterranean Alexandre Hogue Gallery. From the gallery sounds a dissonant lull and growl. The dimly-lit room features rotating shows by outsiders and students of the college, including solo and group shows. Not being a visual arts major at TU, I’ve only visited the gallery to pass through, never with the intention of admiring the art — which I plan to change with each new exhibit.

With this semester’s start, the gallery features “Slabs and Stitches” by Theresa Ganz. I hadn’t heard of Ganz or her work, and after viewing the show I was intrigued by both.

In a phrase, I’d say Ganz is a modern landscape artist. Ganz studied film as an undergrad, and graduated with an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute. Building off of this experience, she hasn’t simply tied herself to the romantic landscape movements with their realism, or to contemporary reimaginings of the American horizon, such as Ed Ruscha’s work. What she has done is poignantly fuse the natural world with modern technique in a way that’s hard to put to words.

Two styles were prevalent at the show: framed works, including panoramas and a diptych; and oversized inkjets taking their own shape on the wall, which tower with sharp angles, and are confusingly titled “Panorama 1” and “3” although they don’t take the shape of traditional panoramas, but rather range vertically.

The show’s title “Stabs and Stitches” reflects both her content and method. Ganz photographs rock formations and cliff faces (which remind me of the Arbuckle Mountains of southern Oklahoma and the rural sandstone bluffs of nearby Osage County), then stitches the photos together, creating landscape of her own design–like seamless collages.

The effect is otherworldly. By first appearances I saw something I thought I knew well. Soon, the closer I looked the pictures would change until I had to take a step back to really admire the pieces in their totality — similar to how nature is admired. Ganz had the effect on me any good artist should; like standing in Plato’s cave I only saw shadows until something in Ganz’s picture let in some better light, or led me out.
Most images are in black and white, while some experiment with hints of color. One piece is an experiment in form. I read this on the artist’s description of her show, describing a video installation component:

“Storm Diptych is a two-channel video set to music, 13 minutes long and looped. The footage was taken of both hurricanes and smaller storms all shot through a window. The video is set to the first movement of String Quartet No 19 by Mozart, also know as the Dissonance Quartet. The music has been slowed down to a drone. Here the reference to Romanticism is overt — many of the images draw from the paintings by Carl David Friedrich and the piece itself is in the Romantic tradition of Sturm und Drang.”

I plan on attending the opening reception on September 1, so I can congratulate and ask her about this piece. “Storm Diptych” is published on the homepage of her Website: theresaganz.com — for the lazy art admirer.

The video might be my favorite piece, being so different from her other work; the presentation, historical ties, and her intention intrigues me. At the gallery, my favorite hung piece is “Panorama 1,” one of the two large works pinned to the walls. These photos are less defined and more abstract than the cliff works: they appear to be photo collages of rock textures — and in the case of “Panorama 1” are reminiscent of snowy mountainous regions. They remind me of the surface of the moon or some distant planet. The color is subtle and well thought out.

It was startling to me how much depth the edited photos possessed. Each piece has a textured, three-dimensional quality, or “trompe-l’œil” for you art kids. The same effect is true of “Second Diptych” and easier to achieve with film in my opinion. The cliff work, such as “Serpentine Pano Inverse,” also plays with depth and focus by using contrast and negative color editing.

“Panorama 1” and the framed pieces express another natural reflection in Ganz’s style — the lack of clean and defined borders. (Chaos in nature versus natural order). Even in the framed pieces the edges where color meets white on the prints are not straight lines, but angular, and further: the lines shaping the angles are not clean, but jagged. To me, this quality of Ganz’s art expresses an important quality of nature’s beauty that realism rarely captures.

For example, in reality rocks are weathered in random patterns, storms will come out of nowhere and change the landscape, and these two forces will interact until the end of time in a way that feels both ancient and eternal. Bottom line, Ganz knows her craft and deserves recognition.

Ganz’s last solo show listed on her website was in Ontario and was titled “Heart of the Cave,” we’re lucky to have her work in Tulsa — she’s made my shortlist of contemporary artists worth checking out. “Slabs and Stitches” runs on campus in the Alexander Hogue Gallery until September 22.

Post Author: tucollegian

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