Exhibition Celebrates Photography

Posted: September 17, 1989

A two-dimensional, black-dotted dressing table leans against the stairwell of Penn State Ogontz's library. The dressing table's mirror reflects an empty highway winding through the mountains.

Upstairs, in another picture, a boy walks along a modern city sidewalk amid lush green foliage and the frescoed ruins of ancient Pompeii.

This is photography?

Instead of celebrating the 150th anniversary of photography with a look at the past, the Ogontz Library Gallery is exhibiting the cutting edge of this medium.

"This really represents what's going on with photography today," said gallery director Joan Rosenberg-Dent, who put together the show. "It's totally nontraditional."

The Extended Image features surrealistic compositions, huge photo juxtapositions and narrative photo installations from three award-winning Philadelphia photographers, Norinne Betjemann, Eileen Neff and Marty Fumo.

The show opened Thursday in the campus' Woodland Building and runs through Oct. 5. The Library Gallery is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

"We don't teach photography here at Penn State Ogontz, and there are no local galleries that show contemporary photography," Rosenberg-Dent said. "A lot of people who live in the suburbs don't get to the city, and they miss a lot. We want to expose the community to as much as we can."

The show begins with Betjemann's Flee, a hand-colored juxtaposition of two photos with gold-leaf accents that show a vaulted cathedral ceiling atop a crumbling stone stairway.

"As a child, I had a notion that time was continuous with different centuries running parallel to each other. This series depicts places caught in time," Betjemann says in a statement introducing her works at Ogontz.

"I don't consciously set out to create a certain image. They're real spontaneous," Betjemann said at the Thursday night opening.

Betjemann's images of deteriorated buildings in Guatemela are manipulated by altering negatives, joining different views and hand-coloring with gold leaf. Her works are large - one stretches six feet across. They appear slightly worn with folds in the photographic paper.

"Everything she does is so unique," Rosenberg-Dent said. "Most photographers cannot work with this scale."

On the stairway leading up to the second floor of the library are works by Neff. Look Out, Stand Up and Sea are puns on their titles, picturing a man on a cliff, a cardboard cutout of a man in a suit, and the ocean.

"My work focuses on seeing as a poetic rather than a phenomenological experience," Neff says in her introductory statement. Neff is a 1974 graduate of Tyler School of Art and has taught at Drexel University and Philadelphia

College of Art.

Fumo's 8-by-10-inch surreal photo collages come the closest to traditional photography - but not too close.

Fumo's Four Level Parking seems at first to be a straightforward photo of an ordinary parking garage. A second look shows boats floating on the first level and a cloudy sky on the top level.

"I like to extend photos beyond the initial scene captured in the camera," Fumo's introductory statement says. "My intent is to have the viewer realize the photo is not the only means to document a real event."

At the show's opening, Fumo spoke about his technique. "Sometimes when I'm working with ad people, they think this is all done by computers. It's not. It's all done by hand. I saw this in advertising photos first. I didn't like their content, but I liked their techniques."

In one untitled work, a small child runs through water fearfully as a mushroom cloud balloons on the horizon.

"These are really little jewels," said Rosenberg-Dent. "He cuts up photos and puts them back together like a painter using a palette."

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