Arts & Culture

Final Friday: Focus on photos

This month’s Final Friday has developed into a photographic affair.

Tangent Lab in Old Town and The Midwest Center for Photography in the Douglas Design District will be hosting juried photo contests during the popular monthly art crawl.

“It’s our visual world through the photographic process,” Tangent Lab gallery owner Brad Ruder said. “The exhibit gives viewers the opportunity to view contemporary interpretations of what surrounds us.”

The shows promise to display an array of area talent and showcase emerging trends in contemporary art.

“It’s all about providing opportunities for artists,” Midwest Center for Photography gallery director Linda Robinson said. “Creative exploration is fostered by showing your work to the masses and interacting with other creative minds.”

Both competitions netted wide interest. This is the second annual show for Robinson’s gallery. She received about 65 entries from across the country. Of those, 25 artists were invited to show. Five of the artists are from Wichita or cities nearby. They are competing for a $500 fellowship award, which also will entitle the winner to representation on the gallery’s website. Robinson will act as the show’s juror.

“Highly talented artists submitted for this show,” she said. “Some are very bold in what they are doing and quite courageous in their conceptual goals of their work. One of my big goals was to get a lot of local and regional submissions, and we definitely accomplished that. I just love showing off Wichita and Midwest talent.”

One of the artists Robinson credits with pushing the envelope is Martha Fleming-Ives of Brooklyn, N.Y. Using her father as a subject, she portrays him in his role as a pastor preaching in his pulpit as well as just an ordinary man taking a lazy bath.

Ruder received nearly 250 entries from more than 50 photographers and will be displaying 50 hung works with an additional 50 images digitally streaming throughout the night. He said the exhibit, now it its fifth year, is among the most fun shows his gallery hosts. Larry Schwarm, photography instructor at Emporia State University, is the show’s juror and will select winners in several categories.

“I’m always impressed by the talent this show attracts,” Ruder said. “We have a lot of first-time showers, even some professional photographers who have never shown in a gallery. This show resonates because photography is a very open medium. People are able to wrap their minds around it.”

Robinson and Ruder took submissions in multiple genres. Portraits, landscapes, still lifes and digitally manipulated photographs will be among the images on display. Ruder took submissions for digital, film and alternative processed works. Though there is no set theme for the Tangent Lab show, Robinson noticed a trend: The trope of land and how people are affected by their connection to it weaves throughout the show.

“Just the action of going out and observing the landscape is common for photographers,” she explained. “Their tool is the camera. It’s a discovery type of medium. It’s also a tool to document as well — kind of documenting the scope of the landscape. You see that in this show with how photographers capture the state of our economy. Images of abandoned signage, decaying buildings and neglected areas show how a low economy affects not just our commerce, but the connection to our land.”

The juried shows provide opportunities for people locally and nationally to interact with the Wichita arts community. Though he focuses mainly on local and regional talent for this contest, Ruder said someone from California submitted this year. Robinson said she has seen a spike in interest nationally after opening her gallery three years ago.

“People want to come here to show. There is a fascination with Wichita and the middle of the country,” said Robinson. “It’s wide open spaces here, and there’s opportunity within those spaces.”