Fine art

Sublime to surreal

Photographs by Birgit Gutsche and Heather Ross at The Taos Inn by way of the TCA


Sometimes collaborations are on purpose. There’s a plan and a structure and two or more people band together to achieve a goal. Other collaborations seem to come from an inspiration that is given life in another world. The thread that binds them is ethereal and part of the world of ideas and aesthetics.

“Sublime to Surreal,” an exhibition of photographs by Birgit Gutsche and Heather Ross, is just such a collaboration. Part of the “TCA Exhibits” at The Taos Inn, the show will be on view now through June 5. A reception for the artists is planned Thursday (Feb. 9), 4-6 p.m., at The Taos Inn, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

The “TCA Exhibits” series provides established and emerging visual artists opportunities to promote, exhibit and sell their works. Through public and private partnering with The Taos Inn, Taos Center for the Arts (TCA) has expanded its venue opportunities for artists. Additionally, the venue has expanded its support and reach for its exhibitions. The Taos Inn is much less formal than the Encore Gallery at the Taos Community Auditorium (which is managed by the Taos Center for the Arts, but owned by the town of Taos). Showing at The Taos Inn also allows for easier access due to the hotel’s open hours with the art on view and the convivial atmosphere with its soft adobe walls, refreshments and live music.

According to the show’s press release, the TCA’s Art Committee reviewed both Gutsche’s and Ross’ distinctive photographic images after making an open call to artists. They were immediately sure the work should be shown together. The fusion would result in a “dynamic, thought-provoking exhibition.”

Although this might logistically be a good idea, there was the delicate issue of suggesting that both agree to work together rather than having all the glory of a solo show. Though Gutsche and Ross had never met, after seeing each other’s work, they enthusiastically agreed. The resulting collaboration is “Sublime to Surreal.”

According to Deborah McLean, executive director of the TCA, the idea didn’t need a lot of spin to make it work.

“The commonality of the black-and-white photos will thread the exhibition together, yet their distinct perspective will separate them. Heather’s work speaks to illusion while Birgit’s speaks to reality. In addition, their framing and presentation techniques differ, giving the exhibition another level of visual interest. Both artists have a distinctive style along with a critical and discerning eye for composition and play of light,” McLean said.

Canadian-born and Arroyo Seco-based Gutsche imbues her images with a quiet, contemplative energy. Her work has been shown in galleries and other venues throughout the Rocky Mountain West. In addition, her images have appeared in literary journals and will be featured in an upcoming poetry collection published by Shanti Arts. She is a member artist at the Sage Fine Art Gallery in Taos, where many of her photographic images are available in both large and small formats.

These images are individually printed by Jack Leustig Imaging using the newest Epson printers with archival pigmented inks on museum-quality paper.

In her artist’s statement, she writes, “I strive to bring a quiet, contemplative energy to the frame. Additionally, by focusing on composition and tone, and limiting the use of processing techniques, a further objective is to establish and nurture an intimate affinity with the subject, one that communicates and celebrates the beauty, poignancy and oft-times ironic nature of our chaotic world. Through the art and perspective of photography I seek to bring both understanding and a fine balance to life as I experience it.”

Ross is an artist who uses multiple lenses in her photography. She also employs long exposures and photo-transfer processes to create surreal and dreamlike images. Her techniques include digital imagery and manipulation, alternative process and traditional 35 mm and medium formats.

Themes for Ross are perceptions of reality and alternate realities, memory and dreams. Her work is heavily inspired by surrealism, and her goal is to take something ordinary and create something otherworldly.

Ross’ work has been displayed at PhotoPlace Gallery, Black Box Gallery, Center for Fine Art Photography, Greg Moon Art and Edition One Gallery. She has been published in the Hand Magazine, Taos Magazine, Float Magazine and Dodho Photography Magazine. Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Florida and has earned her fine arts degree in photography from Texas Woman’s University, where she graduated summa cum laude. In 2006, she received a digital photography associate degree from the International Academy of Design and Technology, graduating magna cum laude.

In 2016, she had a solo show, “Through a Glass Darkly,” at the Taos Artist Collective. She also had one in 2014, “Jamais vu,” at Texas Woman’s University: 010 Gallery, Denton, Texas.

For more information, contact the TCA office at (575) 758-2052.