Jay Zheng is showing her Instagram-inspired photographs in a new exhibit — and inviting viewers to use clothespins to hang their own snapshots alongside her art.
Her "Life of the Lens" exhibit continues through Feb. 17 in the Marion Ady Building on Southern Oregon University's Ashland campus. The show is one of six exhibitions of student, alumni and community member art in the Marion Ady and Art Buildings next to the Schneider Museum of Art at SOU.
A reception featuring the artists plus refreshments is from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, in the two buildings.
A social media app, Instagram allows users to take, edit and post photographs to their own personal sites. It has become "de riguer" for artists and photographers, who use editing tools to add effects — from faded Polaroid to film-noir creepy — to the obligatory photos of landscapes and cityscapes, selfies and portraits of friends, cats and dogs, restaurant meals and coffee drinks.
Zheng's photographs include these subjects, but in the hands of this talented young artist, they are intriguing, revealing a person closely observing, capturing and subtly altering scenes from her world.
For her exhibit, Zheng has created prints based on highlights from her Instagram account, found at jzheng1996.
"I use Instagram as an outlet to share my photography and I also use it personally," says the SOU junior. "With the exhibit, I wanted it to be very physical. With the digital world, we are always looking at a screen. It loses that connection a physical photograph gives us."
Pinned to a clothesline in groups of twos and threes, the photographic groupings play off each other.
One sunset photo captures the headlights and brake lights of cars whizzing by on a highway seen through a chain link fence, while its mate shows fluffy, glowing clouds above a mountain.
An unsettling, eerie photo of downtown stores and parked cars on a cold, wintry day is grouped with an image of a parent and child made out of snow balls.
Zheng said clotheslines hung with photographs or art are often featured as quick, inexpensive methods to decorate and give character to one's home. She wanted the same do-it-yourself look for her exhibit.
"In a gallery, art looks very professional and has a corporate feel. I wanted the exhibit to be very inviting and friendly. Having a clothesline makes it easy for people to incorporate themselves. It's very casual and very open. 'Life of the Lens' is merging perspectives and encourages anyone to be a photographer. Just because it seems professional, doesn't mean you can't do it, too," Zheng says.
Also in the Marion Ady Building, Muuqi Maxwell will show his photographic studies of the impacts of low water at Emigrant Lake.
His "Receded Water" exhibit includes extreme close-ups as well as landscapes. In one photo, minuscule burrs are caught in fine mesh that has been left behind as trash on the shore. Another photo shows circles dredged into the grass as people in vehicles spin cookies in the fragile, muddy soil at the edge of the reservoir.
In his "Hidden in Plain Sight" photography exhibit in the Marion Ady Building, Tom Glassman explores subjects from the subtle and lovely to the garish. His birch tree series portrays the off-white soft glow of the bark, touched by hints of gray, while a photo taken at a flea market shows kitschy cowgirl figurines in revealing mini skirts.
Upstairs in the Marion Ady Building, Richard Alston will show large-scale abstract paintings.
In the nearby Art Building, Sequoia Miller chronicles her own life journeys and the journeys of others.
Her "Inner Journey: Life Transformations" photography exhibit captures the heartbreak of a woman as she lies alongside her son's grave, her head nestled on a teddy bear. In another portrait, the woman sits, legs drawn up, in a dark, cave-like space.
A snapshot taken by the woman's surviving 9-year-old son captures the mix of agony and elation on her face after giving birth to her third child, a girl.
"When a child is born after the death of a brother or sister they are called 'rainbow children,'" the woman notes in an explanation about the photo.
For the "Body Audit" exhibition in the Art Building, Aimee Dahlin, Haley Summerfield, Rani PJ Kaur team up to explore different aspects of the human body. The pieces range from threads of varying colors to ambiguous close-ups of body parts that reveal wrinkles, tiny hairs and freckles.
The trio describe their art as an "exploration into the intimacy and tumultuous relationships people have with the human body."