Marblehead art exhibit explores humanity’s relationship with nature and Earth’s future | News


Earlier this month, the ARTI contemporary art gallery in Marblehead kicked off its new exhibition, “Welcome to the Symbiocene”, a series of artwork from 24 different artists centered around the theme of environmental justice.

The exhibit includes artwork created through unique visual mediums such as painting, sculpting, photography, fiber art, and even augmented reality. But while the styles that these 24 artists use are wholly distinct from one another, they all explore humanity’s relationship with the Earth and the struggle to keep nature in balance.

“When we started the gallery back in January, the idea was to have a modern art gallery to provide a platform for celebrated artists, but also to curate exhibits around important themes of our time, and right now for me, that theme is environmental justice. This exhibit is an attempt at saying, ‘Let’s take the theme of environmental justice, and try to bring art together around it, but in a way that’s constructive,” explained TJ de Blij, a professional artist and curator at ARTI.

While searching for and collaborating with New England-based artists whose portfolios include art focusing on the climate crisis, de Blij eventually reached out to Shared Habitat Earth (SHE), a group of Boston-based artists that created a series of work that celebrates the beauty of nature and the worldwide efforts to save it, and exposes the conflicted relationship between humans and their environment.

Barbara Eskin, the founder of SHE, first thought of the words “Shared Habitat Earth” during a nature walk. Thinking about the shared responsibility that humans have as a species to care for the Earth, Eskin began to conceptualize the core themes of SHE before she even knew what kind of organization the title would be used for.

“Since I’m an artist, somebody suggested, ‘Barbara, why don’t you ask your fellow artists if people would like to join in?’ and that happened very fast actually. I spoke with one person and then it just sort of snowballed. The idea was to put the subject on the table, but in a pleasant way, not just showing horrific images. So we have this dual mission; we celebrate the beauty of nature, and at the same time we confront people with what’s going to happen if we don’t act now,” explained Eskin.

As the title of the exhibit suggests, much of the included artwork explores the concept of a “Symbiocene”, a direct inverse of the Anthropocene, which is the current period of time in the Earth’s long history where human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment. In contrast, the vision of a “Symbiocene” imagines a world in which humanity’s relationship with the Earth and its resources is not transactional, but mutually beneficial.

“I wanted to keep (this exhibition) constructive, without too much doom and gloom. Because if I’m depressed, I’m turned off. It doesn’t make me passionate. But we can make things better. We just need a vision of the future to help people make change. That vision of the future, or that attractive, new desired state that can motivate people to act is what I call the ‘Symbiocene,’” explained de Blij.

While the exhibition includes work focusing on the Anthropocene, and the current-day conflict between humans and the environment, much of the work explores how this concept of a “Symbiocene” could depict a future where nature’s balance is ensured.

CJ Lori, whose “When the Trees Leave” series depicts landscapes where trees are uprooting themselves and floating away, leaves the viewer to contemplate why nature would choose to abandon us. The way in which the viewer’s perspective follows the trees on their journey over rolling hills also appears to create a vision of the “Symbiocene” in which humanity and nature can exist together, if we’re able to adapt and possibly give the trees their space.

Some of the included artists, such as celebrated painter and climate activist Lisa Reindorf, have work such as “Sinking Cities” or “Ocean Invaders” to explore the Anthropocene and the conflict between human development and nature’s overwhelming power. In some of Reindorf’s paintings, man-made geometric landscapes clash with colorful natural patterns to form a chaotic scene that, while beautiful, shows the potential consequences of sea level rise on the landscape.

“This subject can bring forward such negative emotions,” said Eskin. “But at the same time, love is a very powerful motivator. Love of nature will make people act, but we can’t just show beautiful pictures of nature. So that’s where this tension comes in between showing the beauty of nature and expressing concern for it.”

Third-grade students from Marblehead Public Schools will tour the exhibition this week, with guiding questions to think about about how humanity can collaborate with nature instead of destroying it.

The exhibition will run until Sunday, Sept. 17.


Photography show holds a mirror to our memories


An ambitious new photography show holds a mirror up to life in Victoria, in the hope people might see themselves in its reflection.

Mirror: New views on photography opens Friday at the State Library of Victoria, with curators using 141 photographs from the library collection to inspire multimedia art.

Images from some renowned photographers are on show, including Destiny Deacon, Maggie Diaz, Rennie Ellis, The Huxleys, Wolfgang Sievers and Mark Strizic.

The exhibition space itself is a kind of mirror too, a symmetrical design with two giant digital screens and two smaller rooms with mirrored walls.

In these smaller spaces visitors can view the chosen images, and also see how they are stored as physical objects in the collection.

“I’ve made a lot of big crazy shows, but this would be up there,” curator Kate Rhodes told AAP.

As the curators delved deep into the library collection, they found there were many people and perspectives left out.

So they asked writers and artists to respond to the photographs, with the results becoming short films that are projected onto massive screens.

For example, The Pasifika Storytellers Collective composed a song about motherhood that is performed in Samoan, with subtitles in the language too.

A black-and-white photograph that inspired the song is shown alongside an Auslan interpreter, who is also part of the performance.

It’s a new way of seeing the collection and a suggestion of what might be possible, according to Rhodes.

“We can look at the photographs untethered from their makers, and set them free for others to find their own meaning,” she said.

The mirror concept was interpreted broadly when selecting the images, to include for example a reflection of the sky on a body of water, two identical children, or a screen in a photo booth.

Some of the photographs exist only as digital data, others as slides or ageing print stored away in an archival box.

“It has an institutional life, it’s cared for, it’s catalogued – this can make it an untouchable thing and we want to crack that open,” Rhodes said.

Yet she stressed that unlike a gallery show, the library’s photos are equally accessible for all – anyone can ask to view the rare and precious originals.

Mirror: New views on photography is at State Library Victoria from Friday until January 2024.


Contact Photography Festival makes over Toronto with images


There isn’t an official theme to this year’s Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival, which kicked off Monday. With more than 180 public sites, both indoors and out, the month-long citywide celebration of photographic arts offers a wide survey of local and international talents.

Perhaps it’s the early whispers of swimming season or my deep concerns about the future of Toronto’s precious waterfront, but I couldn’t help but notice that many works featured this year are interrogating the role of water in our lives. One could also draw a line through photographic works that look at nature, community, identity or personal histories, which is one of the many pleasures of making your way through the annual fest. (Touring venues is also a fun way to get in those 10,000 daily steps.)

As you are making your list, here are 10 picks to consider for your own personal map.

“Wish You Were Here,” Sarah Palmer

Donald D. Summerville Pool, until May 31

What a perfect place for an outdoor installation of Sarah Palmer’s photos, which document the inside world of “last-chance” cruises, where (horrifically) tourists pay to visit locations severely affected by climate change. The massive photos are installed on the shore of Lake Ontario, ideally situated given that the Summerville pool’s architectural design mimics an elevated cruise pool deck.

“Double Pendulum,” Maggie Groat

Contact Gallery and billboards, May 6-June 17

Look up from your phone to check out multidisciplinary artist Maggie Groat’s richly layered collaged photos, which use natural and salvaged materials to create almost holographic designs. In addition to a billboard at Dovercourt and Dupont, there is an outdoor Harbourfront Centre installation and an exhibition at Contact Gallery, where you can immerse even deeper in her work.

“Convenience,” Jennifer Chin and Jessica Rysyk

ArtQuarters Gallery, May 3-20

Two artists offer a snacky homage to the St. Clair West gallery’s previous life as a convenience store. Jennifer Chin’s series of mass-produced confections draw attention to their minor variations and the human labour required for manufacturing. Jessica Rysyk embeds candies and their wrappers in resin blocks, creating sugary shrines out of familiar treats.

“Exile from Babylon,” Jean-François Bouchard

Arsenal Contemporary Art, until July 15

Montreal-born, New York City-based artist Jean-François Bouchard documents a squatters’ camp through photos and video shot on a decommissioned military base in the California Sonoran Desert. With his lens focusing on detritus caught in tree branches, the lack of visible human activity adds to this transient postapocalyptic atmosphere.

“Scotiabank Photography Award,” Jin-me Yoon

Image Centre, until Aug. 5

The Korean-born, Vancouver-based artist’s list of achievements and accolades continue to grow, with good reason. Known for deconstructing common narratives around issues such as environmental devastation, Yoon’s futuristic exhibition was taken on Iona Island in Richmond, B.C., where a former sewage treatment plant is now being replaced as the polluted lands are transformed.

“Firm Like Water,” Serapis

Mason Studio, May 12-June 30

I am intrigued by the Greek interdisciplinary collective Serapis and how they describe their practice as a “multimedia ocean-themed novel.” This narrative is extended through their photography, which is a core part of their work, speaking to the theme by incorporating found images from maritime life.

“Woodland,” Sarah Anne Johnson

Stephen Bulger Gallery, May 6-June 25

Wherever Sarah Anne Johnson goes, I will follow. The Winnipeg artist is best known for pushing the photographic medium by adding paint, stickers and dyes to images of landscapes, creating ethereal worlds that you just want to immerse in.

“Feels Like Home,” Sunday School

Art Gallery of Ontario, billboards, May 6-May 31, 2024

In addition to its first museum show, the dynamic creative agency Sunday School will take over the intersections of Lansdowne Avenue at Dundas Street West and at College Street with their striking photos celebrating Black stories and communities.

“Severance,” Lynne Cohen

Olga Kolper Gallery, until May 27

The late photographer Lynne Cohen, who died in 2014, built her name creating eerie images of institutional interiors, focusing on symmetries and repetitions in spaces. The absence of people makes her works seem familiar yet abandoned, an experience that feels even more pointed in our work-from-home offices.

“Photographs,” June Clark

Daniel Faria Gallery, until June 3

After Harlem-born artist June Clark quickly moved to Toronto in the late 1960s with her husband, who had been drafted for the Vietnam War, she began taking photos of her new home as a way of situating herself in the city. This exhibition, which spans the 1970s through to the ’90s, now feels imbued with nostalgia for a Toronto that seems to be slipping away.


Sue Carter is deputy editor of Inuit Art Quarterly and a freelance contributor based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @flinnflon


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Ansel Adams exhibit mulls nature amid a changing climate | Art


Ansel Adams created some of the definitive photographs of the Western American landscape long before climate change threatened to obliterate it forever. Born in San Francisco in 1902, Adams is best remembered for his lush black-and-white pictures of the Yosemite Valley and the Southwest, as well as for his role as an educator who influenced generations of photographers after him.

Now, the de Young — the site of Adams’s first exhibition in 1932 — hosts “Ansel Adams in Our Time,” a major retrospective organized in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, examining the artist’s legacy in relationship with the work of 23 contemporary environmental photographers breaking new ground in the genre.

While the exhibition is full of iconic Adams shots, like “Clearing Winter Storm,” c. 1937, or “Moon and Half Dome,” 1960, both made in Yosemite National Park and many deep cuts, the artist’s work is only a jumping off point.

Richard Misrach’s “Golden Gate Bridge” series, shot from the back porch of his home in the Berkeley Hills, responds directly to Adams’s “The Golden Gate Before the Bridge,” 1932, a breathtaking view of the mouth of the Bay between the Presidio and Marin Headlands – sans bridge. Mark Klett implements collage to converse with Adams and other seminal landscape photographers. The titular view of “View from the handrail at Glacier Point overlook, connecting views from Ansel Adams to Carleton Watkins,” 2003, photographed in color by Klett, is overlaid with collage elements snipped from Adams and Watkins’s earlier black-and-white pictures.

By returning to the source, both artists play to photography’s chronological promise, revealing how much – and how little – has changed.

Others are more concerned with interrogating the act of looking itself, challenging the ubiquity of the White male gaze. Catherine Opie’s landscapes, like “Untitled #1 (Yellowstone Valley),” 2015, respond to and contradict Adams in almost every way: colorful and completely out of focus. Binh Danh’s daguerreotypes of Yosemite, a printing process using a highly copper surface, mirror the viewer in the image.

Both Opie and Dahn’s pictures raise the question of how who looks changes what they see, placing the viewer inside the landscapes they photograph. In fact, the traditional absence of humans from many landscape photographers’ work, including Adams’s, presents a bit of cognitive dissonance: The human footprint is increasingly present in nature, from population growth to climate change, while the particular absence of people in Western landscapes carries colonialist connotations. What you don’t see is just as important as what you do.

Some photographers of Adams’s era attempted more ethnographic projects, like Adam Clark Vroman’s 19th-century playing card sets, illustrated with photographs of Native Americans and sold as souvenirs. Contrast that with Will Wilson’s contemporary portraits of Native Americans like “Nakotah LaRance,” 2012, a young man carrying a portable video game system and a comic book, or Wilson’s own self-portrait “How the West is One,” 2014. Wilson’s diptych represents the artist on both sides: on one, Wilson is dressed in Indigenous cultural garb; on the other, he’s dressed like a cowboy, each staring gravely into his reflection’s eyes. Here, we get a clear view of what’s missing from the supposedly objective presentation of the hauntingly empty landscape.

While Adams’s vision of the West became ubiquitous, it was itself far from objective. Credited with several advancements on the technical side of photography, he studiously crafted many of his images post-production, often combining multiple negatives and using all the darkroom trickery available to him to create impossibly breathtaking views. These technological experimentations were cutting edge at the time, and his work continues to be at home in the company of similarly daring experimenters.

Chris McCaw and Meghann Riepenhoff both play fast and loose with the negative, accentuating the illustrative — even painterly — quality photography can possess. McCaw, who builds his own giant cameras, outfitted with periscope lenses, makes long-exposure photographs in which the trajectory of the sun burns its way across paper negatives over time. Riepenhoff’s pieces are contact prints made by exposing photo-sensitive paper to various natural phenomena, like ice, in addition to light. It’s a level of integration with nature Adams never achieved, embedding nature into their work in an inversion of human’s impact on their


In one of his rare, urban landscapes, “Housing Development, San Bruno Mountains, San Francisco,” 1966, Adams turns his own lens on the direct impact of development, a zigzag of prefab homes tearing through the hillside. Compared to Adams’s earlier nature shots, this feels like a slap in the face, forcing the viewer to confront the degradation of the landscape. There’s a way in which all of Adams’s photos could be considered depictions of humanity’s impact on the land, and the continued impact on the land is fully displayed by his contemporary counterparts.

Mitch Epstein approaches environmentalism through absurdism. In “Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California,” 2007, the arid wind farm serves as a backdrop for a group of golfers playing on the green course that abuts it. “Signal Hill, Long Beach, California,” 2007, offers a scene of an oil pump wedged between homes in a suburban neighborhood, showcasing the intersection of industrial greed, urban sprawl and willful ignorance. Laura McPhee’s diptych “Early Spring (Peeling Bark in Rain),” 2008, is a view into a dense forest of burned trees, the soot-black bark of each trunk peeling away to uncover new growth beneath. It’s a heartbreaking record of wildfire damage, with a hint of a promising future.

The beauty of the natural world has grown bittersweet. Every picture in the exhibition is gorgeous, sublime enough to teach the Hudson River School a lesson, but they’re hard to look at without recalling recent and increasing environmental travesties in the Bay Area and beyond.

By avoiding the sort of didactics often present in climate activism, Adams and company remind us what we have to lose by showing us why we love it, doing so without sacrificing any of the complex dynamics present in humanity’s relationship to the land. These pictures aren’t for posterity: they’re a reminder that time is running out.


Joan Collins, 89, appears to be ‘aging backwards’ in stunning new photo


Eighty-nine and looking fine!

Joan Collins showed off her seemingly ageless looks — and timeless wardrobe — while out and about with husband Percy Gibson.

“Looking for the #wisteria which only blooms in the #spring,” she captioned a carousel of photos on Instagram Friday. “Wearing @ysl jacket from the #80s #shoppingmycloset …wait! Looks like #ahubby found it!”

In the first photo, the Hollywood icon looked effortlessly chic while posing next to a tree in a pair of oversized sunglasses, gold earrings, black pants, a semi-sheer striped top, and her vintage Yves Saint Laurent jacket.

In the second snap, Gibson pointed up at the blooming wisteria tree that the couple, who wed in 2002, had been searching for.

Percy Gibson out on a walk.
She and husband Percy Gibson were out looking for wisteria.
Joan Collins in white.
“Aging backwards,” a fan commented on the photos.
Dave Benett/Getty Images

However, fans were mainly focused on Collins’ “amazing” appearance.

“My goodness how can this force of nature be 90 in a months time??” one fan asked. “Incredible and a great example to everyone.”

“Omg like a 20 year old, amazing ,” someone else said.

“Aging backwards,” another chimed in, while a fourth added, “You look amazing ”

Joan Collins younger on a couch.
Fans compared the actress to a “20 year old.”
Bettmann Archive

This isn’t the first time fans have marveled at the “Dynasty” actress‘ glam style.

Collins proved that age is just a number last Christmas while rocking an animal-print one-piece at the pool.

The star — who was once called “very amusing and with an unbelievable cleavage” by King Charles III —  completed the look with her signature oversized sunglasses, red lipstick and a fiery red manicure.

For more Page Six you love …

Joan Collins in a bathing suit.
The actress showed off her ageless figure in a leopard print bathing suit last year.

“I’m coming back as you in my next life,” one follower wrote. “Fabulous.”

“HOW do you do it? Time for another book beautiful lady” another added with a heart-eye emoji, while a third fan commented, “Joan Collins not fair that you look that terrific in the morning! Amazing lady!”

And apparently, her beauty is au naturale. Last year, the actress — who turns 90 on May 23 — revealed that she “hasn’t had any ‘work’ done” despite most stars going under the knife nowadays.


Nature’s beauty, protection inspires ‘Made in NY’ artists


AUBURN — Many of artists featured in “Made in NY 2023,” which opens March 25 at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, have been inspired by nature.

For some, such as Maureen Church, of Rochester, the goal with her piece “Erie Canal at Dusk” is to capture the beauty around them.

“These paintings are part of a series based on my recent plein air landscape works,” Church said in her artist’s statement. “I use rich colors and wild brushwork to represent the beauty I see in nature.”

Other artists focus on a particular aspect of nature. Henry J. Drexler, of Norwich, still lives near the dairy farm where he grew up. His artwork “Bovine Madness XXXV” begins with images of cows that he manipulates to eliminate depth.

“Whether painted in black and white or fanciful hues, I strive for playful, abstract works of bovine madness,” he said.

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Artist Joyce Hertzson, of Pittsford, actually uses bits of nature in creating her artwork “After the (F)fall,” printing leaves and branches on rag paper.

“The finished print is always full of surprises,” she said in her artist’s statement. “Even using the same set of elements and process, I am never guaranteed the same outcome.”

Other artists use their creations to warn of humans’ abuse of nature. Saranac Lake artist Barry Lobdell’s photograph “Chevron Sky” was taken Nov. 6, when the temperature reached 70 degrees.

“Not a normal temperature for Saranac Lake in November,” he said.

While the weather made for a beautiful photo, he asked: “Is this beauty only skin deep, hiding within it the danger which is inherent in our unnaturally warming planet?”

Bill Hastings, of Ithaca, is a naturalist and gardener who is acutely aware of humans’ impact on nature.

“Every action has an impact,” he said. So with his piece “Sway,” he does his part to reduce, reuse and recycle by “utilizing a ubiquitous material that seems unavoidable in contemporary culture: plastics.”

Concern for the environment led Cyndy Barbone, of Greenwich, to alter her art-making material for her work “Our Rights Are Protected in New York State.” Conscious of the growing water crisis, she decided to stop dyeing her yarn.

“I have replaced color with white or natural by using varying thicknesses of linen to explore how transparency and density in weave structure can convey images, thereby eliminating the vast amount of water used in dyeing,” she said in her artist’s statement. “The illusion of light in the resulting work is a powerful metaphor for the human spirit.”

A total of 320 artists submitted 480 entries for this year’s “Made in NY” exhibition. Jurors Gary Sczerbaniewicz, Theda Sandiford and Kevin Larmon selected 81 pieces from 79 artists for the show, which will run Saturday, March 25, through Sunday, May 28, at the Schweinfurth. The free opening reception will be 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, and prize winners will be announced at 6 p.m.

Cayuga County-area artists in the show include Mnetha Warren, of Aurora (“Wonder Bread,” 2022), Denise Moody, of Skaneateles (“Her Trunk,” 2023) and Donalee Wesley, of Marcellus (“The Revelation,” 2023).

The exhibition is funded, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.

The exhibition will open along with two others at the Auburn gallery: “Triggered, Truth & Transformation” exhibition by New Jersey artist Theda Sandiford and “Positive, Negative, Shallow, and Deep,” by Oswego artist Tyrone Johnson-Neuland. (Editor’s note: Each exhibition will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Citizen’s entertainment guide, Go, and on

Maria Welych is marketing director for the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, a multi-arts center that opened in 1981 thanks to a bequest from Auburn-born architect Julius Schweinfurth. The center’s programs include more than a dozen exhibitions each year and educational programs for children and adults, which feature local, national and international artists. For more information, call (315) 255-1553 or visit


Photography specialist site DPReview is closing down


Digital Photography Review, a popular online resource for photographers, is shutting down after 25 years of service.

The website’s closure is part of the restructuring plans announced this year by Amazon, which acquired DPReview in 2007.

“The site will remain active until April 10, and the editorial team is still working on reviews and looking forward to delivering some of our best-ever content,” DPReview said in a message posted on its website on Tuesday.

“This difficult decision is part of the annual operating plan review that our parent company shared earlier this year,” it confirmed.

DPReview added that “everyone on our staff was a reader and fan of DPReview before working here, and we’re grateful for the communities that formed around the site.”

Within hours of DPReview announcing its closure on Tuesday, another site dedicated to photography, PetaPixel, revealed it was offering a home to Jordan Drake and Chris Niccolls, whose YouTube channel, DPReview TV, shares camera and lens reviews, along with photography tips and other related content.

The pair will be the faces of a new PetaPixel YouTube channel launching in May and offering similar content as DPReview TV while exploring a number of new photography-related themes.

It’s not the first time Drake and Niccolls have shifted sites, as five years ago they moved from The Camera Store to DPReview.

“The show is going on,” Niccolls said in a video posted on Tuesday. “Everything that you know and love about [DPReview TV] , you’re still going to know it, you’re still going to love it, we’re still going to be doing our technical gear reviews out in the field, which means out in freezing cold Calgary, Canada. That’s not going to change.”

So vast is DPReview’s database of reviews and other content that it’s likely you’ve landed on the site whenever you’ve researched a camera or lens, or sought out news related to the industry. It’s not clear if the site will remain online so that its valuable resources remain accessible to photography fans, but it will certainly feel like a waste if the site simply disappears from view next month.

Editors’ Recommendations


Annual Juried Photography Show returns to Ocean City Arts Center


On March 15th 2023, in Ocean City, a town hall meeting addressing proposed offshore wind farm was held at the Tabernacle.

OCEAN CITY — Browse more than 40 photos from photographers across the region during the Ocean City Arts Center’s annual Juried Photography Show, on display daily starting April 1.

Photographers from Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Gloucester counties, and as far as Pennsylvania, submitted more than 125 works, with 40 selected by the show’s judges. The photographed subjects include landscapes, wildlife, architecture and people.

To be selected, judges examined certain aspects of the image, such as the overall emotional feel, techniques used and presentation. 

Guests can join a Meet the Artists reception from 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 14 at the gallery, located in the Ocean City Arts Center, 1735 Simpson Ave., 2nd Floor. The show will be on display through April 27.

Hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, call 609-399-7628.


Photo Finale show opens March 4


Yountville — “This year, nature’s mustard plant is getting the recognition throughout Napa Valley that it deserves,” says Napa Valley photographer MJ Schaer.

Schaer is the founder and director of the first Photo Finale 2023, an open invitation photography exhibition in alliance with the 2023 Napa Valley Mustard Celebration, which will premiere on March 4 at Jessup Cellars Gallery and continue through March 31.

The Photo Finale 2023 has been in the making since last fall when professional photographer Schaer set out to attract professional and amateur photographers throughout wine country to break out their cameras and capture that one-of-a-kind image.

Photo Finale 2023 will exhibit 72 works by 46 photographers showcasing the beauty of Nature’s winter mustard season in the Napa Valley.

The Photo Finale Photography Exhibition will celebrate the “yellow gold” beauty and splendor of the wnter mustard lobom that blankets Napa Valley’s landscape and vineyards from December thrrough March.

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Photographers have four categories to choose from: Landscape, People/Pets, Innovative and Food & Wine, to apply their photographic creativity and skills.

First, second, third and Honorable Mention ribbons will be awarded to the top four photographs in each category. A Peoples Choice Award will be presented at the closing reception on Friday, March 31.

Schaer said, “I am so pleased with the tally of entry submissions by professional and amateur photographers for this first annual event, and to have the unique gallery facility at Jessup Cellars Gallery gives the exhibition a true wine country setting and experience for Napa Valley’s Mustard Celebration 2023.”

Photo Finale 2023 Exhibition at Jessup Cellars Gallery, 6740 Washington Street, Yountville CA. 94599 is open to the public, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., daily.

Photo Finale 2023 Exhibition Photographs will be available for purchase.

For more information, visit

A combination of seed shortages due to warming climates, rising glass and cardboard prices and soaring prices for white wine mean you could be paying more for mustard soon.


Bloomington-raised poet, photographer talks Midwest stories for TEDx


Is ‘flyover country’ an appropriate moniker for the Midwestern U.S., or other overlooked places in the world? Through photography & poetry, this talk explores that question through inspection of the overlooked or the avoided: rust; thunderstorms; work; everyday people doing everyday things; politics; social class; et cetera.

A lifelong Midwesterner, Justin Hamm is the author of four poetry collections, two poetry chapbooks, and a book of photographs. His most recent book is Drinking Guinness With the Dead: Poems 2007-2021 (Spartan Press 2022) . . .

BLOOMINGTON — Most Midwesterners, like Justin Hamm, can say they once had childhood dreams of leaving their hometowns for somewhere “things are really happening.”

Now 42, Hamm is speaking about how he changed his perspective on life in the Midwest through the power of poetry and lens of a camera. The 1998 graduate of Normal West Community High School was featured in a TEDxOshkosh talk published Wednesday on YouTube, titled, “The American Midwest: A Story in Poems & Photographs.”


Bloomington-native Justin Hamm, in Mexico, Missouri, holds a stack of his poetry books in this provided photo from 2022. He was recently featured in a TEDxOshkosh talk.

Hamm, who mainly grew up in Bloomington, theorized before listeners in November 2022 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, that “there really is no such place as nowhere.

Everywhere is somewhere, and everywhere has a story to (it) we can uncover if you learn to use the poet’s or the photographer’s eye.”

Pushing back against negative stereotypes about the region, like the “flyover country” label, he said the Midwest has kept him artistically busy and interested. Some of the prose recited by Hamm told of the beauty of a rust, “the mysteries of barn wood” and forgetting his jockstrap for a double-header baseball game.

Read this Wednesday, June 10, 1998 file story covering a Normal West High School baseball game against Olney High School, including quotes by then-catcher Justin Hamm.

The former catcher for the Normal Wildcats chanted verses of “Until Death Do Us Part,” as photo slides showing the exterior of Keller’s Iron Skillet & Catering in Bloomington were displayed. He drew parallels in his poem “Rust — Or Perhaps Fine Art” between decay and impressionist painting.

In a Friday interview with The Pantagraph, he said he tries to take photographs that would make good poems: “Quiet little scenes that illustrate something about the region.”

Watch now: Normal West student, ‘train fanatic’ publishes book in ‘Images of Rail’ series

“Experience another life.”

Hamm explained the title of his latest poetry book, “Drinking Guinness with the Dead.” Drawing from three other previously released books, it was released in March 2022 by Spartan Press, and contains material dated between 2007 and 2021. Hamm said it also has a “book’s worth” of new poems to go with it.

He said one meaning of the title refers to having a few beverages before revising older material. It was weird reading back in time, and he didn’t seem to care or relate to it at first. But Hamm said he didn’t want that to be the case.

He said going back also made him realize he wasn’t doing enough to publicize that work.

Reflecting on his piece titled “A real team effort,” he said he hoped to capture awfully embarrassing moments of adolescence and bring them to life. Hamm said many have told him they can relate.


Poet-photographer and former Bloomington resident Justin Hamm is shown in this 2021 self-portrait.

“They get to experience another life for a while,” he said.

That teleportation also extends to his photography work. Showing stills of rusted-out cars, he said countless people have told them that model was the first they owned.

At another poetry reading and photography showing, Hamm said two farmers lectured him about why a particular style of corn crib was built in Central Illinois but not in South Dakota, because of the immigrants who settled in those regions.


Shown in this 2019 photo provided by poet and photographer Justin Hamm, formerly of Bloomington, is a Central Illinois barn.

See with different eyes

Hamm said he never left the Midwest. He said he got married and went to school in the region, and moved to Mexico, Missouri, where he currently works as a librarian for Eugene Fields Elementary School. He’s a husband to his wife Mel Hamm, and father to two daughters: Abbey, 13, and 9-year-old Sophie Hamm.

He attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville to play baseball, also where he met his wife, and said he got more involved in the English department after hurting his arm. Hamm also explored fiction writing, but said he knew he “was always a poet at heart.”

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Coming back to poetry over time, he said he found success. He did his masters of fine arts degree at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, and followed another Bloomington native who was coaching wrestling in Mexico, Missouri.

Knowing his best friend “Martin” would be there and his wife liked the school district, he said it was a good landing destination. Hamm said they haven’t found any reason to relocate since they moved there in 2005.

Hamm also edited his startup literary magazine, Museum of Americana, for 10 years. Then in 2019, his poem “Goodbye, Sancho Panza“ was studied by 50,000 students worldwide through the World Scholar’s Cup curriculum.

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Around 2009, Hamm said his mother died and he had his first child. That’s when he said he realized his roots are in the Midwest, and leaving was not a certainty. Hamm said he thought he’d better start trying to see things with different eyes.

“Everything that happens in this region is a microcosm of the biggest conflicts and struggles, and also the most beautiful things in the world,” he said.

He said these experiences teach us lessons in human psychology, social interactions and the dichotomy of rural versus urban. There are many different perspectives to view through stories and images, he said, like immigrant experiences and sights of beautiful landscapes.

“When I started to stop and pay attention, I realized how deep that history really is,” said Hamm.

To keep up with Hamm, and read or purchase his work, go to

Contact Brendan Denison at (309) 820-3238. Follow Brendan Denison on Twitter: @BrendanDenison