“Janette Ryan‘s photographs of Puget Sound capture an ethereal side hidden behind the hustle of everyday life. Through her lens, the horizon line dividing sky and sea dissolves into nothingness. Docks and pilings become graphic strokes so pure as to resemble a mysterious language of dots and dashes left behind by humans from an indeterminate age. These visual impressions could have emerged from anywhere, or nowhere. Their origins could be post-apocalyptic – or preceding Tacoma’s emergence as a city, when there were no cars, rails or airplanes. Even her images of iconic structures such as the Narrows Bridge refuse to be pinned down – they brim with a dynamism that seems to call back from the future….” I wrote these words in a 2011 review of Ryan’s exhibition for Spaceworks Tacoma, at the Woolworth Windows. I was immediately struck by her spare, distinctive photographic style – especially her technique for leaving out extraneous layers of visual information from the familiar South Sound landscape, leaving behind the most essential.
When I began looking for artists to show at Moss + Mineral, she was one of the first people I called.
“Northwest Dissonance”, the inaugural show at M+M opening November 2, refers to art that deviates from local stereotypes in its depiction of the region’s geography and/or psyche. While “dissonance” suggests a disturbance, antipathy or discord, Ryan’s photographs are jarring to view for the opposite reason – they remove obstacles to seeing another side of our much-vaunted environmental playground, that is, one of quiet, distilled eloquence. Her work is influenced by the internationally known, Seattle-based photographer, Michael Kenna, yet displays a specific mastery of the Northwest landscape and its meteorological phenomena. Honors from the National Arts Program sponsored by the City of Tacoma, and the Gig Harbor History Museum, acknowledge it.
In considering work for the group show, Ryan said she turned to the dictionary for synonyms of “dissonance”: conflict, disaccord, discordance, disharmony, dissension, dissidence, disunity, division, strife, variance, warfare – but was most intrigued by the notion of “‘that which is considered unstable (or temporary, transitional).’
“For myself as a photographer, I am not drawn to ‘pretty landscapes’, but to transitional objects that are manmade. The Narrows Bridge, for example, really is ‘temporary’, [though] most people consider it a stable structure that will remain forever. The act or force of nature and time will eventually reclaim the steel and concrete just as it more quickly reclaims structures such as wooden pilings.” Ryan is also conscious of the slippage of perceived time in her time-lapse photographs: “Some of my pieces are calm and peaceful as if there is no time. While other pieces show the swift clouds, moving tides and the light ‘moving’ through them. Yet, in the act of photography, every image ever taken is only a temporary or transitional moment/second captured. Once made into an image, this passing moment caught in a photograph/negative/data is itself considered stable and permanent.” ~ Lisa Kinoshita
Your opportunity to see “Northwest Dissonance”, a group show of work by Janette Ryan, Jennifer Adams, Malcolm McLaren, Kristin Giordano, Regina Chang, and Lisa Kinoshita, is decidedly transitory, so check it out at Moss + Mineral, through January 15, 2014.