Domestic Musings From Above

Art exhibit pamphlet cover courtesy of John Denhouter,

SIUE MFA graduate Ben Stern is teaming up with his former professor Brigham Dimick for a joint show. The show, titled “Domestic Musings From Above,” can been viewed at the Schmidt Art Center at South Western Illinois College.

The show features both paintings by Dimick and large scare composite photography by Stern depicting landscapes from a top down perspective. The reception for the show will be held Thursday January 19th from 6pm to 8pm and the exhibition will run until February 24th.

Below is a statement about the exhibit written by Steve Brown, associate professor of art and design, that gives a preview of “Domestic Musings from Above”.


“The role of an exhibition title often is to offer the viewer insight into the artworks’ raison d’ être. Domestic Musings From Above is not an exception. Indeed, the first formal element that emerges when encountering these two bodies of work is that both artists have offered the viewer an aerial perspective of the scenes depicted. Another term for this dominative perspective is a “god-like” view. I often disagree with this term because I think that if there could be such a perspective as “god-like,” it would emanate from inside not from above. In this sense and in acknowledgement of a full disclosure, I do possess such a view in that I am familiar with the artists and their work on both a professional and personal level.

Brigham Dimick’s pensive paintings present the viewer with a sense of time and space in a visual language that consists of the human figure (his daughters’), architectural references, the cartographical grid and natural elements, specifically whales and geographical depictions of their migratory environments. When combined, the result is a fantastic, vertiginous landscape often approaching the sublime, smartly countered with the rationality of the structural elements. Yet, it is the girl’s figure in the bath that ultimately grounds the viewer. She is inevitably placed in the picture frame at or very near the vanishing point of the composition, thus emphasizing her central role in bridging the domestic space with that of the natural.

Upon close inspection, one notices that the figure is also included within the confines of an apparent rectangle that floats barely detectable inside the painting’s perimeter. Indeed, Dimick begins his compositions with the visual rationality of the photograph and expands them with the subjective eye of the painter. The visual tension that this strategy creates is analogous with the dialectical questions he is raising between the natural and the cultural, the universal and the personal, the environmental and the domestic.

Benjamin Stern’s large highly detailed photographs offer the viewer a perpendicular overview of the composition. One immediately wonders what kind of lens Stern used on his camera to gain such an undistorted wide-angle view? Ironically, the hyper-sharp, large photographic images are ultimately manufactured rather than merely “taken,” through a process that Stern devised relying on his engineering skills. Each image is composed of hundreds of photographs, or units, captured in a methodical grid-like system and quilted into one final image employing digital techniques. Taking a close look at the constructions, one senses that there is something amiss, as shadows shift throughout the images and ice melts at different rates. The result is a composition that has subverted the conventions of photography, instead depicting hundreds of spaces, each with its own unique perspective and moment in time, cleverly woven together to imply a single time and space.

Stern is asking questions about human perceptions of landscape by looking back at places on and around the family farm where he grew up — places that resonated with him from childhood into adulthood. His technical strategy can be read as a study of memory and the photographic image and their relationship to the past, both simultaneously offering access to what was, but neither, independently nor wedded, being an entirely reliable source. Indeed, you can’t go home again.” – Steve Brown, 2011 Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Professor of Photography and the Digital Arts

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