Island artist and photographer, Michelle Friars, was scrolling through a list last week, hoping to see her name among those whose work had been selected for a national juried show at the Midwest Center for Photography, in Wichita, Kansas.
She quickly spotted Vashon, WA, but the name attached was Michael Elenko. Then, two names down, Vashon appeared again and there she was. Out of fifty-two national and international photographers, the island will be represented twice.
Elenko has two photos in the 2021 show. West, Steptoe Butte is a landscape photographed just after dawn in the eastern Washington Palouse region. It captures the almost hypnotic colors and texture of the land in the early morning light. A smaller version of it was featured in Vashon Center for the Arts’ December miniatures show.
Elenko’s second photograph, Evans Canyon Fire – 1, was taken in the aftermath of the monumental fire which this summer consumed over 75,000 acres in eastern Washington. About it, he said, “I had to manage deeply contradictory emotions simultaneously. I felt a sense of awe at the scale of this fire and a sadness in experiencing its consequences. I knew intimately what this vibrant place used to look like. But the stark textures of the damaged areas were striking and the colors unusual. It made for some fascinating photography and a humbling experience.”
Friars’ successful entry, Floating Rock 2, is part of a series created in response to the surreal year that was 2020. For Friars, living in the shadow of the pandemic has felt like life playing out in the liminal space between before and after. A place where the ordinary rhythms of life are in suspension and the old rules no longer apply; where everything seems to have changed and our expectations have been fully upended. Another photograph from the series will appear in a book, Art in the Time of Corona, to published later this year.
The Midwest Center for Photography is located in Wichita, Kansas. Elenko’s work has been featured in the gallery’s annual juried show in four previous years and he won an award in 2018. Friars’ work appeared there in 2016 and 2017.
The show runs in February and March and can be viewed on the Midwest Center for Photography’s website, mwcponline.com.