Friday, January 31, 2014

Mainland Winners: Sheikah Alyazia AlQassimi

Juror’s Choice winner for Mainland Sheikah Alyazia AlQassimi speaks about being a photographer in Dubai. 

 Desert Tree

Describe your path to photography.

Photography started as a youthful intuition. I began photographing as soon as I got my hands on an old analog camera at an early age. I even made use of any disposable cameras I could find. By the age of 12, I had already started developing my own film in a dark room. Ever since, I have never parted from a camera. I attended the American University in Dubai, and majored in Visual Communication, where I continued with Photography. Although a lot of my work is conceptual, I became drawn to various genres.  My photographic work ranges from street and documentary photography, to landscape and architectural photography. However, I seem to be very discreet about my work, which remains mostly within my personal collection. To me, photography is my visual diary. A visual diary, where my memories reside.  

Juror's Choice Award, Bridge. 

What is it about the night and darkness that appeals to you as a photographer?

Night photography is intriguing in various ways. Available light at night is captured in ways daylight tends to miss. There's a certain calmness about night photography. A calmness that demands patience.  

You live in a part of the world with a unique landscape. What role do your surroundings play in your work?

Quite a vital role. The UAE is a country that is growing globally. It comprises both the modern and the traditional, with beautiful desert landscapes and expanding infrastructure. As modern and as prosperous it has become, it still holds on to its Bedouin roots and traditional values. Hence, this motivates me to share a unique comparison in sceneries. From vast deserts and mountains, to cities filled with skyscrapers. I am privileged to be able to photograph a wide range of landscape choices. Photographing your ‘mainland’ is an opportunity to contribute and leave a lasting impression of where you come from, with other parts of the world.

Camel Caravan 

Your work is focused on formal aspects of composition and high contrast. Describe your style in your own words and how you arrived at it.

I would say, ninety percent of my work is in monochrome. Working with black and white has always prompted me to experiment dynamically with shadows and light, along with details. When I can, I always take numerous shots of the same scene. I expose correctly on a few shots, and purposely underexpose the other shots in order to save the highlights and bring out shadows and details. This use of monochromatic contrast, yielded a specific style to my work. I find black and white photography dynamic in every way, straightforward, and timelessly classic. In my opinion, simplicity in composition is what defines a photograph.  


Walk us through a typical shoot. What happens and what do you think about when behind the camera?

As I always happen to carry my camera with me. I do not plan my photographs. Sometimes, you have to wait for a photograph to happen. When framing a shot, I either wait for the scene to walk into my frame, or I compose accordingly. Behind my camera, I’m completely attentive, and disconnect myself from my surroundings. The only thing that matters, is what appears in my viewfinder.  

 Lampost Reflection

As a photographer located in Abu Dhabi, showing work in the United States, how would you describe the differences in the contemporary art scene? How does your work fit into each?

Abu Dhabi has a flourishing  and dynamic art scene. Which will soon include the Guggenheim and the Louvre museums. Contemporary artists  from around the world join local artists and galleries to showcase annually at the Abu Dhabi Art Exhibition. The differences vary due to the distinct geographical locations and cultures. Some artists seek the traditional aspect, while others are more keen to show a contemporary, modern, and abstract side. I prefer to create a common ground with both art scenes, and work with both the traditional, and contemporary approach.

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success in art mean to you?

Success is being determined to achieve, and dedicated to what you enjoy.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mainland Winners: Donna Rosser

For Director’s Choice winner Donna Rosser, photography has long been a family affair. Her grandfather documented his early military life in the 1920’s with a Kodak Hawkeye, and he continued to photograph his family’s intimate moments after he returned home. Rosser recalls stories of her mother and aunt’s photographic adventures in the 40’s and 50’s, at least one of which ended with their father’s beloved camera in a creek. Now in possession of much of her grandfather’s photography equipment, Rosser carries on the family tradition. With her children grown, Rosser has reinvigorated her art and has been able to devote more time to photography.

Ebenezer Church Road

Her still lifes are influenced by her childhood and time spent with her grandparents. Believing work has broader appeal when it focuses on what is most personal, Rosser creates nostalgic images of familial items in her home to illicit “dear thoughts” that are personal to her but have a nostalgic quality that speaks to many. She manipulates the light in these images to accentuate the fragility and preciousness of her subjects, and employs camera angles that mimic the viewpoint of a child to enhance the feeling of discovery.

Family Tree

Grandaddy's Stash

Rosser’s winning image, Stars Over Low Tide, is evocative and eerie, and takes her work in a new direction with landscape and texture. “Being outdoors under a crystal-clear night sky is a humbling experience. It makes one feel so small. I always wonder how many others are out there looking out at the spectacle and wondering.” Photographing the land, Rosser is at the mercy of her environment. She seeks out landscapes that project a sense of place in nature: the closeness of the environment around her, or “the vastness of, say, a near-empty beach.” Unable to control the light and atmosphere, she strives to make photos that live up to her experiences.  

Director's Choice Stars Over Low Tide

Making a connection between the viewer and the photograph is Rosser’s ultimate goal. A successful photograph will stimulate emotions or draw the viewer into the image. At the end of the day, the most successful photographs for Rosser are the ones in which her vision has been realized. “If it pleases me, makes me happy, that is the best I could hope for. If someone else likes it – that is the cherry on top.” An active member of her photographic community, Rosser recently joined the Advisory Council for SlowExposures, an annual photography show celebrating the rural south. A child of rural Virginia herself, this annual event is a perfect fit for Rosser because it allows her to continue to explore the wild natural surroundings that she loves. “I am always looking for an image. […] A great nature shot makes me feel the damp earth beneath my bare feet from just looking at it.”

Berries Blue

Mainland is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through February 1, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Featured Artist: Elizabeth Kauffman

Three times per year The Kiernan Gallery presents a solo exhibition of a non-photographic artist in conjunction with a photographic group show. Our Winter Featured Artist is Elizabeth Kauffman exhibiting her series Post Idiom.

What was the evolution of your style of painting? How did you begin your artistic career?

I began as a figurative painter. I have always thoroughly enjoyed the process of painting something that looks believable, but as a representational painter I had to quickly confront the questions inherent to the process of painting images. What does it mean to make an image? What does it mean to represent the “real”? Are images inherently corrupt as agents that potentially limit perception? Images have the power to act as social mediators, giving what seem to be realistic portrayals of how things are, or in some cases how they should be. I began working from images of women found in fashion magazines and of course had to deal with this basic question of the model vs. the real. The deliberate fantasy spun by fashion and its photography was of particular interest. I have since moved onto other subjects, like nature and landscape, but the basic issues are still the same: what is the space between reality and fantasy and how do images mediate that boundary.  

Reed Camp on Lake Lila after Gary Wilson, 1906

Elaborate on the relationship of text and image in your work. How and why did you choose the phrases used and how do they relate to the idea behind the portfolio?

I find the relationship of text to image very fascinating. I am a very visual person, yet there is nothing more thrilling than finding a good book that fills your head with mental images. So in a sense, language is another road to the image just as representational painting is perhaps a more direct route. In my work I enjoying playing with those two paths and exploring where they cross. In this particular series, Post Idiom, familiar American idioms are combined with images of romantic landscapes. This combination speaks to the important juncture we are at as a nation, where our basic ideals about our land and ourselves must change to meet the demands of the 21st century. While in some cases the common phrases I use are as old as the imagery, their pithy and short form mimic the current shift in language caused by new technologies of text messages and twitter feeds. While some idioms I use have an “I told you so” ring, others offer an alternative perspective, such as “Go for broke.” Rather than a using these bits of text as censure I wanted them to represent an ambivalent point of view, because our present situation truly could go either way. 

Lake Placid Rainbow after Joann Sandone Reed, 2012

Tell us about the history of these pieces. You are making direct reference to painters of the Hudson River School. What is your connection to their style and yours? What is the tie-in?

Some of the images I use are from famous nineteenth century landscape paintings by artists like Thomas Cole and Winslow Homer, and for me these paintings conjure a feeling of nostalgia for the American dream of living off the land. Like many Americans I was raised on that dream and still find those romantic ideals attractive, yet I realize we no longer live in that world. As Thomas Friedman described the 21st century, it will be hot, flat and crowded, and the dream of the bounty of the American wilderness will be quickly turned to nightmare if our ways do not change. Furthermore, that dream was made possible by the genocide of the first Americans so it was corrupt from the very start. All this being said, it is the romantic image of the land that has the potential to save us. Oftentimes our sympathy for nature, our desire to be “green” and protect our environment is provoked by romanticized ideas of it. Beautiful and idyllic scenes of mountains and lakes can remind us to protect our fragile resources so they can continue to inspire tall tales and sublime pictures for many years to come.

While most of my sources are oil paintings, I chose to paint in watercolor because of its essential qualities of fragility and ephemerality. If exposed to running water these images would literally disappear. These qualities are a perfect metaphor for the precariousness of our ecosystem. Watercolor also seemed to speak to one of the most recent effects of climate change that drenched the entire east coast while I was in the studio making this work: Hurricane Sandy.

Lake George after Jasper Francis Cropsey, 1872

Who are your artistic influences? Are there any particular artists working in watercolor of any other medium that have influenced this work?

Some of my recent influences include Mary Mattingly, Claire Sherman, and Michelle Blade. Mary Mattingly for her ambitious projects that envision a new way to live, as well as her beautiful photos; Claire Sherman for her awesome landscape paintings that use paint in a very graphic and interesting way; And Michelle Blade for her use of water media and surreal imagery. Adrian Piper, Annette Messager, and Andrea Zittel have also had a big impact on my work over the years. I haven’t deliberately sought out only female artists, it is just an interesting coincidence that the work I am most excited by is created by women.

Where do you see your work fitting into the contemporary art world?

I am very much indebted to contemporary trends that encourage interdisciplinary work, because I would not have been happy working in an era when you had to choose just one way. I do however suspect that I will always make paintings and have a studio, and this puts me at odds with the contemporary trend of the post-studio artist. I still have a desire to speak to the masses, so I strive to make work that is both interesting to me, an insider in the field, as well as intriguing to the general public. This goal does not seem particularly encouraged within the upper strata of the current art world, and therefore I imagine my work will never end up at the Whitney or the Guggenheim. I also choose not to live in New York, and despite the years of cries for a decentralized, more regionally relevant art world, New York is still the place to be. Perhaps as the internet and new technologies change our lives this too will change. Here’s hoping.

Ausable River after Samuel Colman, 1869

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success in art mean to you?

For me success is continually growing and evolving in my work. This might seem like a given, but making new work is driven by things outside the self. Having a supportive studio environment as well as artist friends and colleagues to encourage exploration is one important driver. Another is having the ability to show and sell your work. The art world measures success in part by a long resume list of shows. I would agree that this means success, but not because of the shows themselves, but because of the evolution of making that it supports.

Post-Idiom is on view through January 31, 2014. To view the exhibition online visit  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Announcement: New Call for Work!

In the Abstract
Deadline: March 21
Exhibition: April 30 – May 31
Opening Reception: May 2

Abstract photography explores color, movement, form, and other intangibles that are not dependent on a recognizable subject. The medium of photography has a unique ability to reproduce with precision and clarity, the world as we see it. Abstract photography deconstructs our world, resulting in new and surprising interpretations. Graphic elements without context, long exposures, blurred subjects, and extreme close-ups are a few of the ways that photographers manipulate their subjects in an abstract manner. These works are limited only by imagination. For In the Abstract, The Kiernan Gallery seeks non-representational imagery that partially or fully obscures the recognizable world.
For this exhibition, juror Susan Spiritus will select up to 25 images for display in the main gallery, and up to an additional 35 to be included in the online gallery. All images will be reproduced in an exhibition catalogue available for purchase. A Juror’s Choice and Director’s Choice will also be announced and will both receive a free copy of the exhibition catalogue.
All photographic media are encouraged.

About the Juror

Susan Spiritus is the Owner of Susan Spiritus Gallery in Newport Beach, California. Founded in 1976, the gallery was Orange County's first commercial venue dedicated exclusively to contemporary fine art photography. For its first 20 years the gallery mounted monthly solo exhibitions and summer thematic group shows. In 1996 the gallery moved and elected to function as a private dealer and consultant. the Susan Spiritus Gallery remains focused to its commitment to feature and support the works of mid career and emerging artists. 

For more information and to see submission guidelines visit: