See Florida through the eye of a lens


Renee Hoffinger's "Manatee Springs," one of several photos featuring her theme of reflections in water, can be seen at the Hippodrome Gallery.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 8:25 p.m.

The Hippodrome Gallery makes a fine overflow lounge during play intermissions. There is plenty of elbow room to facilitate the proper biomechanical form a good gin and tonic requires. It also does duty as static artistic accompaniment to the current production, and reliable anchor for the monthly ArtWalk. And every now and then, it stands on its own as a small local gallery.

The Hipp is currently serving in the latter occupation as host to Florida's Eden: Through the Lens, photography exhibition. The show, which contains the works of six local artists, runs through Feb. 16.

Florida's Eden is a citizen's initiative with a stated goal to portray, preserve and prosper the natural and creative assets of North Florida.

The goal of this show was two-fold. The first was to "find and engage the photographers," says Annie Pais, director of Florida's Eden.

The non-profit already has the recognition of our local Plein Air painting community. The second goal was to let viewers see North Florida the way photographers do.

"We wanted it to reflect the natural beauty of Alachua and Marion counties," Pais says.

The six photographers, all living in either the Gainesville or Ocala areas, have submitted 36 photographs ranging from traditional landscapes to fantastical hybrids. Of the six, Renee Hoffinger earned the most thumbs up from me.

When I first looked at her work I thought "nice composition, but not a particularly amazing use of digital editing." While I don't have any problem with using Photoshop to achieve an artistic goal, I expect a lot when I see software in the mix. I was taken aback when I read that Hoffinger keeps her photos untouched other than occasionally inverting the perspective. With that in mind I reexamined each print, and the more I looked the more I liked.

"Monet Visits O'Leno" is a case in point. This photo of a suspension footbridge reflected in the river is well composed with a strong diagonal element, pastel colors and an impressionistic style, but the application of the digital filter was nothing special. Viewed in the new light, I saw the rippled effect was actually wind on the water, smooth and even. Hoffinger must have sat quite a while to capture the surface at just the right moment. The reflection of the underside of the bridge is really quite impressive, so much so that the woman joining me that afternoon bought the print right then. And she is usually a much harsher critic than I.

Reflections in water is the common theme of her works, which include titles like "River Rorschach," "Manatee Springs" and "Wellsprings." I was very much taken with "Manna" in which Hoffinger does a brilliant job playing with perspective. It took me a couple of viewings before I realized what she was doing. Then, I went "duh" and slapped myself in the forehead.

Pretty much every artist has some hits and misses. Shirley Lermon has a nice pic with "Heron," where the bird's head weaves through brush like a snake. Her "Percherons" was a near miss, I liked the shot of the team of horses in a cloud of dust, but the chain-link fence in the background ruined the antique aspect. A shorter depth of focus would have helped.

Diane Farris, the best known of the crew, has some digitally massaged pieces that played well. "Sandhill Crane/Gingko Leaves" show a crane's head in profile over a layer of Gingko leaves. The muted tones and delicate lines made the composition look more like a finely done pencil drawing on rice paper.

This is the first photography show for Florida's Eden, which hopes to grow the event into the photographic equivalent of its annual Paint Out. It's not bad for a first effort and worth the visit. The opening reception is being held in conjunction with ArtWalk on Friday night, from 6:30-9:30 p.m.

Speaking of ArtWalk, it's that time again. Word is that attendance has been growing. This monthly ritual consists of wandering the local downtown galleries, chowing down on some free appetizers and enjoying the best that our local artists have to offer, so grab a jacket and get out there. Some pics I have received lead me to believe that Hector framing and gallery may be one of the better bets this round. The self-guided tour runs from 7-10 p.m. on the last Friday of each month.

David Hackett can be reached at davidmhackett@cox.net.

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