RSU Photography Exhibition Focuses on the Old – From a Young Perspective

An examination of the aging process and a poignant look back at childhood memories are often the provinces of those facing the later years of life – or at least just encountering middle age. But in an exhibition of photographs that begins this week at Rogers State University, the eye behind the camera is quite young, even though the viewer may suspect the mind’s eye is much older.

“Full Frame,” a collection of photographs by Jessica Arden Blakely, a senior at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., will be featured on the walls of the Foundations Gallery beginning Thursday, Feb. 1. The gallery is located in Baird Hall on the RSU campus in Claremore.

Jessica Blakely is the daughter of Dr. David Blakely, RSU assistant professor. Raised in North Carolina, Jessica stayed behind to attend college while her father left a teaching position at North Carolina Wesleyan College to start a new theatre program at RSU.

She will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in technical photography from Appalachian State. She has completed a couple of photography internships, in New York City and Savannah, Ga., and her work has been shown in galleries on the East Coast. Her first solo exhibition was at North Carolina Wesleyan College. The RSU exhibition will be her second one-woman show.

In her bio, Jessica states that she enjoys a variety of outdoor activities, some of which may be difficult to indulge in Oklahoma, such as snowboarding. She also says that she enjoys “playing with toys, especially toy cameras.” Her favorite toy camera is what is known as the “Holga,” which she describes as suitable for experimentation.

And experiment she does. In her RSU exhibition “Full Frame,” she presents two series of images, one large and one small. The smaller, color images focus on the theme of “deterioration over time,” including objects and people.

In her artist’s statement, she asks, in a voice beyond her years, “What happens when you let things go, let nature weather and fade without human interference? The aging process is something that most Americans try to prevent at all costs, yet they often turn a blind eye once they have decided it’s too late, leaving their once treasured possessions to decay and eventually disappear.”

The larger images in the show are the results of “an experiment” she conducted last summer with her little plastic Holga camera.

“I have always been a fan of the dream-like images that can be created with the simplest camera,” she says. “The images in this series are familiar southern East coast scenes. They aren’t places that I know well but they look like the blurry memories that I have of my childhood. The old skating rink that was the location of so many birthdays parties in a row, the chain-link fences that surrounded your elementary , middle and high schools, and even surrounded your school bus. They aren’t just my memories though; they are scenes of wayside places that you once saw out the window of your parent’s car.”

For many of us, those are familiar but distant memories. For Jessica, not so long ago, although one suspects her young eye will help the older, more experienced viewer bring them into better focus.

A reception for Jessica Blakely will be held at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8, in the gallery. The public is invited to attend.

The exhibition of her work runs through Feb. 22, when RSU begins a series of spring exhibitions focusing on art by area high school students and RSU student artists. Foundations Gallery hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (918) 343-7740.