The co-publisher of Bold Life and Carolina Home + Garden, print magazines distinguished by their high-end photography, will show his fine-art images in an ambitious late-spring show. Rimas Zailskas’ exhibit Looking For You is subtitled “new and old photography” — and this practical descriptor could also moonlight as a kind of artist’s statement. Regardless of when they were taken, or how, the exhibited photos all exist in a dreamlike suspension of time, hovering somewhere between abstraction and documentary. In one series, shot in a menacing copse of trees and stylized in saturated black and white, figures in harlequin animal masks almost glare at the camera: the spooky effect is at once vintage and aggressively postmodern. Other portrait subjects confront the viewer from more recessed points of the composition, but even when the figure is turned cameo-like to the side or wearing Dragnet-type sunglasses, what prevails is an almost disturbing sense of urgency.
Zailskas, who’s been featured in past solo shows at Flood, reveals that during a shoot he is forever in the moment. “I get lost,” he says. “I like being in people’s lives, intensely but momentarily, when they share things with me — when they share themselves.”
His post-production process is about much longer moments, as Zailskas experiments with color, contrast, and atmosphere to coax out the image’s greatest impact. He references existentialist painter Francis Bacon, who once said he wanted his own images to hit viewers’ nervous systems in the instant before their brains had a chance to apply order to them. “It’s a kind of vision,” explains Zailskas, “that keeps the figure, that doesn’t completely get rid of narrative, but produces an immediate reaction before normal cognitive function sets in.”
Looking For You: new and old photography opens with a 6-9pm reception Saturday, May 20, at Flood Gallery Fine Art Center. North Carolina Poet Laureate Shelby Stephenson will also appear at the event, reading selections from his book Country. While Stephenson’s work owes a lot to regionalism, his excursions in memory and mood — events remembered, but not always in a linear way — should play out as a fine complement to Zailskas’ work.
Looking For You, Opening Reception, 6-9pm, Flood Gallery, 2160 Hwy. 70, Swannanoa; 828-273-3332. On Facebook: Flood Gallery Fine Art Center.