John Priola, Klea McKenna, Linda Connor

Local Treasures: Bay Area Photography

March 15 – May 11, 2014
Artist Reception: Saturday, March 22, 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Local Treasures is a bi-annual exhibition series that features artists who have made a significant impact on the development of artistic practice in the Bay Area. This year, the focus of Local Treasures is photography. The exhibition is curated by Anne Veh, and includes work by Linda Connor, Hiroyo Kaneko, Klea McKenna, J. John Priola, Unai San Martin and Richard Whittaker.

These artists have contributed to the strength of contemporary photography in the Bay Area by producing work that is fearless of constraints and explores image making through both traditional and non-traditional techniques.

left to right: J. John Priola, Klea McKenna, Linda Connor

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About the artists:

Linda Connor, a beloved instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute for more than forty years, is well known for her large-format images from her extensive travels to faraway places including, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Peru, Tibet, Turkey, and as well as sojourns closer to home, Hawaii and the East Coast.
With her large format camera, Connor is drawn to the austere grandeur of the mountains and alluvial plains of the Himalayas. Her photographs communicate a wisdom and force held within Nature, but it is a view of Nature that is coupled with Connor's other artistic subject.... the human cultural and spiritual response to place. Ladakh, sometimes called the Little Tibet, was remote to the outside world until the late Sixties, and fortunately unlike Tibet, its Buddhist Monasteries were not decimated by a "Cultural Revolution."


With a passion for the outdoors and the physicality of creating artwork in relationship to the natural world, Klea McKenna delights in the unexpected.  As a photographer, she prefers to work with several analog photographic mediums: gelatin silver and chromogenic photographs and photograms made outdoors in the forests at night. McKenna notes, "This experimental approach means paring down to the simplest ingredients –light and paper- and making images that refer to location only through elemental form and color. I use a variety of crude strategies; hand-made cameras, outdoor photograms, and methods of folding film and paper to create sculptural images. The flawed material sometimes becomes as visible as the image it has captured. Light, both the science and magic of it, is at the center of all this." Her recent series, Rain Studies are mesmerizing images of water dancing on paper made outdoors in the forests of Hawaii under a night sky.


Hiroyo Kaneko’s foundation for her practice is her connection to her homeland and family in Aomori Japan. She speaks of the clear light, which allows for the luminous quality in her chromogenic prints, and the presence of nature, which is beloved and honored in the countryside of her hometown. Her images speak to the intimate relationship and nourishment we gain from nature. Her recent body of work, Appearance, is inspired by her feelings of alienation and separation, as experienced after arriving in the United States eleven years ago. Keneko states, "Children have their own physicality when singing. They seem to be standing at the threshold of self-expression and self-consciousness. The act of singing is both personal and social; my role as photographer is to catch that moment when both aspects intersect."


Unai San Martin speaks with a passion and intimate understanding of the medium of photogravure. San Martin notes, "I like working with my hands. Photogravures are made by hand, from polishing the copper plate to pulling a print from the etching press. It is a time consuming and unforgiving process, but I favor a slower approach to image making. As in cooking, it is a way of putting my soul into what I do." It is a medium for the fine art photographer. Of Basque heritage, San Martin was raised in a family of craftsmen. His father, an engraver, often took his son on sojourns through the Basque countryside to visit masters of the trade. Blessed with a temperament that honors patience and process, he has spent decades nurturing a relationship with the medium and mastering the technique. The result are images of exquisite beauty; they are of real places, yet carry a sensibility of a mythic landscape. Whether cityscape, landscape, or abstraction, each work expresses an emotional truth; the presence of the artist is felt.


One experiences J. John Priola’s black and white gelatin silver prints as one would a good poem. There is an elegance to the ordering and space within each picture frame, and an invitation to read beyond the ordinary. Consistently, his work awakens all the senses to experience an inner and outer reflection. By focusing the camera on what’s not there, he allows the invisible to become visible. In his Farmhouse series, made collectively over a six-year period, Priola found himself in locations across the country where he could stay with friends. With his 4 X 5 camera, he would spend time with the land making pictures of the space left by farmhouses, defined by the remaining trees.


For more than thirty-five years, the camera has been a constant companion for Richard Whittaker on road trips to the desert and national parks. Coupled with an innate curiosity, Whittaker finds himself in strange lands where anthropomorphic rock formations invite allegorical ruminations. Through the eyes of the artist, one is transported to a land laden with stories. Using a 35 mm, a digital, and at times a point and shoot camera, he is able to dramatic compositions. Light, a quiet force in Whittaker's landscapes, has an otherworldly pull.