You are invited to travel through the byways of Eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho with photographer Dennis DeHart at Galerie Fotoland at The Evergreen State College. DeHart, a TESC graduate who teaches photography at Washington State University, has trained his lens on many of the out-of-the-way places in the Northwest to provide an insider’s look at the oddities and the beauty of the region and a look into the devastating effects of industry on once pristine lands.
He approaches his photographic journey with an artist’s eye for color and composition and with obvious sympathy, and even reverence, for the land and its people. Not to mention a quirky sense of humor.
His photographs capture eccentric roadside attractions like a larger-than-life statue of Paul Bunyan in front of a high school or the interior of a bar with dollar bills tacked all over the walls, each bill written upon and signed; or the outer wall of an Elks Lodge with two boarded-up windows and in each window a painting of an elk – this latter image is like one of Rene Magritte’s paintings of paintings in which you see a landscape painting on an easel set as part of the landscape it is a painting of. That has become an overused trope, but it was brand new when Magritte did it, and it was brilliant of DeHart to find it in nature and capture it with his camera.
There are haunting images of environmental waste such as a picture of a wrecking yard in front of a paper mill with an unspoiled mountain range on the horizon. Hundreds of cars and trucks fill a hillside in this picture that is aesthetically beautiful but which pictures an environmental horror. Lining the top of a hillside are bumper-to-bumper yellow school buses like cars on a freight train.
Also haunting is an image of animal bones in a dry-grass clearing surrounded by sage brush and a similar image of hundreds of clay skeet pigeons discarded in a field of patchy snow. The orange pigeons look like strange mushrooms growing in the snowy field.
And then there is the photo of a clumsily painted and partially painted-over mural of a headless mountain man shooting a bear.
These and many other images are part of a show called “Confluences.” Galerie Fotoland is located on the first floor of the Daniel J. Evans Library at TESC.
“DENNIS DEHART’S CONFLUENCES PARTS 1 & 2,” open during regular school hours, through Jan. 14, Galerie Fotoland, Daniel J. Evans Library, The Evergreen State College, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia, 360.867.6250