Gary Blackburn has been an art professor at Mercer University for over 30 years, specializing in photography. Now, he is the winter exhibiting artist at the McEachern Art Center. His collection, titled “With Contrast,” is an assortment of turned wooden forms and photographs of the Georgia and Florida coast that he took while on sabbatical in fall 2018.
Throughout Blackburn’s long artistic career, he has mostly worked with film photography to document the Southern landscape. He used his sabbatical as an opportunity to explore the Florida and Georgia coasts in a new way: with digital technology.
“After looking at the many image files produced during the early fall,” Blackburn wrote in the informational pamphlet accompanying the exhibit, “I realized that in color my attention was drawn to the interplay where sky, land and water meet.”
In some of Blackburn’s photographs, there is a distinct boundary between sky and land. For instance, “End of the Day” features a fiery orange sky colliding with black silhouetted trees and grass.
Other images are of landscapes with elements that blend into one another seamlessly. Blackburn’s “Morning on Wassaw Creek” is one of these pieces; the physical trees and clouds are reflected so perfectly onto the surface of still water that the photograph could be flipped around without any viewers being the wiser.
Contrast is also evident in the wooden pieces Blackburn includes in this exhibit. While about half have been smoothed into round circles, the other half boast natural wood knots and ragged edges.
However, the contrasts in Blackburn’s exhibit do not refer only to the artwork.
“I think it is fitting that this exhibition is also about the contrast of where I have been and where I am going,” Blackburn said.
While Blackburn’s early photography work was primarily done in black and white film, these new pieces explore the power of color and digital media. Moreover, the exhibit contrasts his past of teaching sculpture and photography with his future of working more closely with woodturning and creating art independent of class instruction.
Blackburn’s exhibit will be showcased at the downtown McEachern Art Center until Jan. 15.