Art exhibit explores ranges of light, shadows

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— Claire Ellison explores three basic elements with her 48-piece photography show that opens this weekend day, night and human figures.

"Basically, this is the last four years of my life, artistically," she said.

The four years documented in the prints cover the time she spent at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa the show is Ellison's senior thesis at the college.

When it opens at the main gallery in the Depot, beginning today and running through the weekend, it will be Ellison's first show outside of academia.

"I'm a little nervous. I'm showing it to everyone who watched me grow up," she said.

Ellison, who was born and raised in Steamboat Springs, may be best known in her hometown for tending the goalie box on some of the best Steamboat Springs High School soccer teams. During her senior year in high school, Ellison picked up a camera and took a photography class. That was her first definite step toward pursuing art in college instead of soccer. Now, only a few days before she goes back to Iowa to officially receive an art degree, Ellison returns home to present a photography show titled "Oris" (Latin for site and expression).

One basic theme that comes through in the photos is Ellison's interest in light. She liked how different uses of light, and lack of light, had the ability to produce several images within one photo. The night photograph titled "Approaching L.S.D." is a good example of this interest. The photo is shot from a car window while driving toward Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The lights of the cars and stoplights surrounding Ellison's camera are manipulated by a slow shutter speed to look blurred and traced. That produces a pattern that reveals numerous modern images.

Another example of this is in her photos of figures. Ellison said she likes how light can play with the human body and how shadows can make forms look different. Her goal is to create photographs that with each viewing can reveal something different.

Using that concept with figures, Ellison also shows her strong interest in religious classical art with her photos depicting Adam and Eve, as well as Christ.

"These might be a little controversial," said Ellison, adding they are nude pieces. "The best advice my photography teacher ever gave me was that if you are worried about offending everybody, then you would never have an art show."

Ellison said the photos are interpretations of the Biblical figures and are not really meant as a commentary on religion. The idea to do them came out of the numerous depictions of the religious figures she studied in school.

"I decided to do something like that for my show," she said.

"Oris" opens with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Depot. It will run through Sunday.

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