I was warned ahead of time by Salon Refu owner Susan Christian that Dan Barron’s pop-up exhibition of “extraordinary” photos was going to be “exceedingly unnerving” and “incomprehensible.” With words like that, how could I not be intrigued? So I took myself down to Salon Refu, the most innovative gallery in Olympia, to see what all the fuss was about. The exhibition was not hung completely. There were seven large and colorful photographs mounted under glass with no frame, but “floated” against the gallery walls, with three on each side wall and one on a hanging panel facing the front window. There were no wall labels and no titles. What I saw were strange and beautiful photographs, extreme close-ups of what appeared to be animal or human body parts—tiny sections of bodies blown up so large as to be unidentifiable but almost recognizable as eyes, eyelashes, teeth or claws or other hard and sharp organic things, possibly interior organs, and mechanical or metallic appendages. It had a steampunk look a la the Borg on Star Trek.
Much of the imagery was in super-soft focus, but some areas were in equally super sharp focus. The transitions between soft and hard were gradual. Much of the coloring was in tones of pink, violet and yellow. The images hovered somewhere between abstract and realistic—realistic images of the indescribable. Near the back of the right wall upon entering the gallery was a horizontal, rectangular photograph with a dusty-rose form like the roof of a mouth or a cave with two openings from which, or into which, grew green shoots of grass. Also on that wall was a soft, undefinable image of some perhaps underwater thing with bubbles and hair. Everything but the hair was in soft focus. And next to that was a picture of what might’ve been a row of teeth.
On one of two window-facing hanging panels was a picture in mostly black and white with touches of green, divided into two large sections with something like drips of milk or a network of stark white bones jutting downward from the light top half into the velvety black lower half. Another photo shows what looked like a group of yellow-green pincers like crab claws or some kind of teeth, some clearly submerged underwater. Next to that was a photo of something like eyes and a cylindrical growth of something with hair and in the background sweet, candy-like bands of rainbow colors.
The macabre images, combined with the candy colors and soft focus, create a dichotomy of strangeness and loveliness that to some viewers might be upsetting and to others beautiful.
A day after seeing this show I was told by the gallery owner that some of the pictures had unprinted titles like “Milton,” “Sliver” and “Stand,” none of which give any indication of what the pictures represent. The artist said “Milton” comes from Paradise Lost. Christian told me Barron makes his photos in the kitchen, using his own body and water and milk and kitchen utensils. She said her favorite is one using “some pink body part and some kitchen forks.” From that limited description, I can’t tell which of the photos I saw was the image to which she was referring.
This is a very short show. It opened Feb. 25 and will be on view only through this weekend.
(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)
What: Dan Barron photos
Where: Salon Refu,
114 Capitol Way N, Olympia
When: 2-6 p.m. Thursday – Sunday (and by appointment) through March 5
How much: free
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