The elevation of the mundane is Elizabeth Carsrud's strength in Dolls, Dummies, and Other Depictions. In "Treasure Chest," a headless mannequin turned into a multi-drawered jewelry display -- her breasts overflowing with cheap baubles -- is wonderfully absurd. "North Division Shadow" is a headless mannequin with disturbingly real muscled, shiny-skinned legs. Reminiscent of Diane Arbus, whose initial fashion work grew into portraits of society's cast-offs, Carsrud's work has a knack for creating tension through the juxtaposition of oddities and the commonplace.
In his series of color photographs from Vietnam, Paul Haeder also captures everyday scenes, yet his deft compositional aesthetic and underlying sense of narrative push these images beyond mere portraiture. In "Balancing Act," a wizened-looking woman transports produce by traditional baskets. She is backlit, with hints of soft yellows in her fruit basket balanced against those in her ill-fitting shirt. Haeder (who writes on environmental issues for The Inlander) has the ability to capture the narrative essence of person and place; for example, one untitled work portrays five youngish men in roughly matching uniforms sitting curbside against a backdrop of a lifeless gray building emblazoned with the figure of Ho Chi Minh, their rifles as hastily assembled as they appear attired. It is up to us to guess at the whole story.
Bill Kostelac's series of untitled, matte-printed photos appeal with their velvety richness, further enhanced by the exclusion of glass in the framing. Kostelac has managed to capture light much like a painter, crisp yet warm. "Untitled #8" is a casually dressed bright-eyed woman in profile, in which Kostelac conveys strength and elegance, much like Andrew Wyeth's acclaimed Helga series.
Shelly Murney's titles for her landscape series are explicit: "Outbuilding of Philanthropist's Abandoned Homestead" or "Sea Stack, Rialto Beach, WA." Her images are decidedly implicit, overpainted with oil to convey majesty, mystery, and the quiet beauty of forgotten places. In "Rialto," pale blue-green and thicker daubs of white suggest the dense movement of the sea, contrasting with the tenuous grasp of tree-forms atop the rocks. In "Earth Cycle Farm, Wankon, WA 2006," the body of an older model car is streaked with vibrant blue and orange, suggesting its former days as the transport for American dreamers into a landscape of milk and honey.
The aesthetic of the innate is also explored by Tom Purdum in his liquid-emulsion-on-steel-plate series. These window-size works that incorporate steel framing remind one of tintypes with their neutral tones, pitted surfaces and rust-colored spots. The images are nostalgic without being sappy ("School") or sometimes gritty ("Gear").
Additional abstracts can be seen in Rob Rice's series of high-contrast images. Examples include the dark-headed stone angel against a blank gray sky in "The Guardian" and charcoal-gray shadows cast by rosette forms in "Remembering Giacometti." In combination, Rice's works seem stark, simple, refined.
The evocative potential of black-and-white photography is well handled in David Sams' work, which reflects the artist's strong design background as well. In "Abandoned Boxcar," the prominent diagonal of the precariously balanced boxcar leads the eye in, while its dark values contrast in the classically divided horizon. "Rosalia Trestle Arch" offers a similarly fine-tuned aesthetic, balancing the heavy arch and repeating smaller arches of the trestle against the sweeping farmland vista and delicate pattern of a downed cyclone fence.
Finally, Rick Singer renders place and time with understated beauty. Using an eggshell-colored Luminos X paper and rounding the corners in his prints, Singer evokes the historical architectural works of Roger Fenton. He combines this with a keen eye for pattern and composition, resulting in works like "Mondrian Stairway," and "Amsterdam Caf & eacute;," a close-up of stacked chairs that reads like modern photogravure.
Remember that Tinman is modestly sized, so be patient if there's a crowd. Many photographs require more viewing space than the gallery can easily accommodate, including Sams' work, which is tucked back in the framing area. Don't forget to check for additional display racks of photographs, many of which are very reasonably priced for novice and serious collectors alike.
The Photography Invitational, open Monday-Saturday from 10 am-6 pm, continues through Aug. 26 at Tinman Gallery, 811 W. Garland Ave. Visit www.tinmanartworks.com or call 325-1500.