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|The Elusive, Transformed: Rick Lodmell, through April at the Quad City Botanical Center|
|Art - Reviews|
|Wednesday, 19 March 2008 02:50|
Rick Lodmell is both prepared and lucky.
Equipped with a 10.2-megapixel camera, a calm spirit, and an eye for beauty, he ardently tramps out into the Hennepin canal landscape during twilight and early morning, in all seasons. He is looking for that momentary vision of the natural world, always moving and transforming, to capture what is seen in an instant.
He has also been captivated by the splendor of single flowers and plants found at the Quad City Botanical Center in Rock Island, where he is currently presenting 22 of his photographic observations through April 30.
His exhibition is in two parts, mingled together. About half are flowers and plants, full-frame and so close that we can see pearls of dew or an ant sitting on them. They tend toward the abstract in their composition and in the deep intensity of their natural coloring.
Another set is his photographs of his Hennepin landscapes. A few of his images have been manipulated on the computer, like an outdoor artist finishing his picture in the studio.
Close and repeated looking reveals his images transforming in our eyes in a startling way, as in Hennepin Mermaid, where willowy ripples in the turquoise waters gather to form the dark linear and elongated contours of an ethereal mermaid flowing by in the current. This fleeting figure lasted only a second, but she appears here, perfectly formed, a gift from nature to the photographer.
Even in his most direct photos, there is an otherworldly aspect. In Sunburst, three heavy, shielded leaves of an opened milkweed pod stretch their fine silk between them. The sunlight catches the golden threads in a flurry of curving lines, like a time-lapse picture of stars crossing the sky.
Seeded Sphere is similar. A single dandelion against a dark background fills the space like a galaxy at night. Multiple geometric patterns form inside this circular geodesic sphere, showered by bright points of light, pulling our eyes across and in again. We know we are only looking at a single plant, but there is a universe in view, like a poem by Blake or a patch of grass in a watercolor by Durer. These intimate descriptions are consciousness-raising.
A few of his images are slightly altered with the benefit of computer graphics. In November Reflection, he has transformed the entire image of mid-distance trees and their quiet reflection over the wide canal into a melodic blending of blues, from the lightest to the darkest. The effect is of iced nature, pierced by an intense blue light, vibrant and magical.
In Cusp of Winter Sunrise, in the still-cold days, tall trees are gesturing in the wind over a dramatic computer-swirled curve of horizon in a wild dance of intermixed and flowing lines. The thick horizontal bands of clouds behind provide an energetic and solid counterpoint. Everywhere is a spinning of energy, as if we were allowed to witness a rehearsal of nature, warming up for her spring performance.
His photographs cut through the daily cluttering noises, clarifying what is otherwise hard to see, what is behind matter. His work becomes a poetic vehicle for his own vision. The urge to step into them is hard to resist.
In Surface Meeting, softly jutting forms of reflected leaves and shadowed branches lean out over bare blue-gray mist. The elusive image seems to have an underwater and aural dimension, a mixing of tonal passages and subtle harmonies that pull us into a pleasant reverie.
Ripple Interspection looks out onto four widening circles of raindrops in a pool of water; the sky is reflected in the blue and white space. As in the spiraling galaxies of lights in van Gogh's The Starry Night, or like large stones set in a Japanese rock garden, these rings seem to echo sounds vibrating off four central notes. They also radiate meanings, echoing like the effect of well-chosen words in a person's life.
Ripple #3 is comparable - a combination of three voices, flowing water, bare trees, and diffuse clouds, reflected, overlapping, and harmonious. These elements are given proportion by a single drop of rain on the surface, cracking the illusion.
Even in Hennepin Mirror (In Water), smooth swirls of the blue-green water flow by in soft fields of color, broken only by the haiku of a fallen single leaf suspended near the top of the photograph. The image has a Zen-like attraction - mysterious, quiet, and reflective.
There are many other fine images in this exhibit at the Botanical Center, first on the back wall as we go in, hung a little too high to avoid the crowds of children, and then down a long, thin corridor to the right. The lighting is good, but the space necessary to step back is missing in the hallway. It's not the optimum environment for looking at art, but it's very well worth the trip to see them.
His intimate work shows us luminous ideas and a sharpened eye. You can carry them back with you into the hubbub.
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