Caleb Charland – Demonstrations

Picturing phenomena – refreshing.

Circles with matches from the series "Demonstrations" by Caleb Charland

Circles with matches from the series “Demonstrations” by Caleb Charland

I was able to visit Bluesky Gallery, here in Portland  (the new website is great by the way) this last weekend to catch a look at the Caleb Charland show hanging from his series “Demonstrations”.     The large silver gelatin prints were quite beautiful. I say this because a number of the images I would imagine would have been quite difficult to get such a wonderfully large range of tones. To my eye, the prints excelled at achieving this wide range without the frustrating intrusion of having been pushed too far (you know the effect, where you notice “too much contrast” or “too much sharpness” which gets in the way of the absorbing the illusion of the photo… in other words,  the photographs seemed to have a “natural” appearance…  not over worked…  much richer than the images that can be had on the web as usual…

Sparkler through crystal ball from the series "Demonstrations" by Caleb Charland

Sparkler through crystal ball from the series “Demonstrations” by Caleb Charland

However, the more lasting impression for me is what I think the pictures seem to record: the pictures bear witness to a performance of various phenomenon – you might say “law’s of nature”.  We can describe these phenomena perhaps precisely in abstract scientific terms, but it is difficult to grasp until you have some personal experience in some way with the phenomenon.  As I saw the work, I kept having that feeling of “hey look at this!” That’s what was refreshing. To simply witness what happens as various contraptions yield and act in cause and effect.

Skeleton key with copper wires from the series "Demonstrations" by Caleb Charland

Skeleton key with copper wires from the series “Demonstrations” by Caleb Charland

“Demonstrations”, as noted in the show’s introduction, appear as quasi-scientific investigations. They record a happening over the duration of an experiment.  Charland’s contraptions themselves are wonderful sculptural elements, well composed within the picture borders. Often, there are references to famous scientific discovery’s of the past – some of which we might learn about in school as kids. The effect of the series is unpretentious – it tells us nothing in the end, but instead offers hints of how it might be rewarding to simply embrace seeing again with a child-like sense of wonder.

Additional information written up about Charland and an upcoming group show at Micheal Mazzeo.

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