JUNEAU - For Richard Ross, curating a photography exhibit is like cooking.
Alaska Exposed 050510 NEWS 1 Capital City Weekly JUNEAU - For Richard Ross, curating a photography exhibit is like cooking.

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"An Old Building Against An Older Sky" by Kenneth Moriarty received an honorable mention. The exhibit opens May 7 at the Alaska State Museum.

Photo By Libby Sterling

Guest juror Richard Ross, left, and curator of exhibits Paul Gardinier sort through submissions to the Alaska Positive 2010 juried photography exhibit at the Alaska State Museum.

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David Riccio's "Kiln Mistress," above, received an honorable mention.

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Maggie Skiba's "Musk Ox, Portage, Alaska," left, received the juror's choice award in the Alaska Positive 2010 juried exhibition.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Story last updated at 5/5/2010 - 3:09 pm

Alaska Exposed
Alaska Positive 2010 juried photography exhibit highlights state's best work

JUNEAU - For Richard Ross, curating a photography exhibit is like cooking.

"Each time, you can arrange things in a different order or sequence and make a different meal," he said.

Ross' most recent "meal" is the Alaska Positive 2010 exhibition, for which he served as guest juror. The show features ingredients from all over the state in the form of photographs taken by those who call Alaska their home. More than 70 Alaskan photographers entered about 250 pieces total. In the end, Ross selected 45 prints from 37 individuals to hang in the exhibit.

The show, sponsored by the Alaska State Museum, began in 1970 as an annual event until 1987, at which point it became biennial. For each exhibit, a guest juror is invited to sort through work and determine which of it will make the cut to be hung. Winning entries receive a variety of cash awards and honorable mentions.

This year, most of the considered work was submitted by Anchorage and Juneau artists, but the show also represents photographers from Bethel, Eagle River, Fairbanks, Girdwood, Kenai, Skagway, Soldotna and Wasilla.

"The number of people spread out here represent the history of photography," Ross said. "There are many different points of view."

Ross brought his experiences as a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara and principal photographer for the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles to Alaska Positive. His work has appeared in numerous publications and exhibitions worldwide.

Alaska State Museum curator of exhibits Paul Gardinier has been involved in the juror selection process for the exhibit for over 20 years. He has seen jurors of many types, and they are generally chosen in relation to the significance of their own work as an artist.

"I personally like artists who are teachers," Gardinier said. "They bring a lot to the process. They're used to giving information and guidance and breaking expectations, but there is a kindness to them compared to a New York photography gallery owner."

"I guarantee that another juror is going to do a show that's totally different," Ross said. "Some work in that stack is undeniable, some work is just quirky enough to appeal to individual taste."

"My experience with Alaska is looking at work in calendars-heroic landscapes, spectacular mountains and snow," Ross said. "I'm an outsider to this culture, and it may be a good point of view."

Ross' "outsider" perspective shaped the show consciously and subconsciously, he said.

"It was surprising that I selected a large number of individuals within a landscape," Ross said. "So it was subconsciously or unwittingly that I was looking at the role of the individual here in a landscape that can be pretty intimidating."

The selected pieces cover a panorama of subjects and conceptual content, from deadpan portraits to contrived scenes that seem to address specific issues.

"There was one that was just confusing to me and should be included because when you see an exhibition, there should be work that reinforces your thoughts and other things that challenge them," Ross said.

Ross didn't hesitate to award Maggie Skiba of Eagle River the coveted juror's choice award the instant he uncovered her toned gelatin silver print, "Musk Ox, Portage, Alaska." The film image is hand-printed and carries traditional photographic elements that appeal to Ross.

"It's perfect and elegant," Ross said.

As Gardinier has observed jurors' processes over the years, he has noticed vast differences in the nature of their selections.

"I would generally pick 60 percent of the show that they pick, from my own knowledge of Alaska and my own sympathies," Gardinier said.

"I'm interested to see how Paul will hang (the show) because it's certainly a collaborative event between the artist that makes it, the curator/juror and somebody who is hanging the show," Ross said.

The exhibit opens Friday at the Alaska State Museum, where it will hang until this fall when it will begin its statewide tour.