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Let there be light

Published on September 5, 2017 3:35PM

Photography that uses light like a paintbrush will be on display this Friday, Sept. 8, as the Newport Visual Arts Center presents a new show from Oregon-born artist Thomas Wheeler.

The show, entitled “Punctum,” opens with a public reception from 5 to 7 pm, including a talk from the artist at 6:30 pm.

Wheeler’s photographs, shot on vast, solitary locations, highlight the bewildering wonderment of distinct landscapes. Wheeler uses a combination of long exposures and hand-held light-emitting tools to establish a direct relationship with an object or person through a distinct point — or punctum.

The haunting and playful images are created wholly at the time of exposure, without the use of any post-production software or equipment. While traditional photography generally captures a frozen moment in time, Wheeler’s images are developed within the fluid period of long-exposure.

“Like some sort of sci-fi episode, I manipulate the world within a moment, not just reacting as a viewer of any particular scene,” he said. “I encourage movement, painting of subjects with light, and the addition of various elements to the photo with whatever light tools or props come to mind.”

Wheeler calls the ease of digital photography equipment “simply relative.” He puts many hours and effort into each image, what he calls the “slow-food” of photography. Each image is wholly created by hand during the image-capture process, which can be as long as 30 minutes. And before that moment, Wheeler has spent time scheduling his shoot, considering moon-phases and sunset/sunrise charts, researching locations and making or acquiring light tools. His photographic journeys into remote landscapes can last upwards of four days, with him never knowing exactly how the images will turn out.

Wheeler grew up in Portland and currently lives with his family in Palos Verdes, California. His creative photography pursuits stand beside his work as the founder of a Los Angeles-based recycling company working closely with Hollywood studios. More and more though, Wheeler is being recognized as much for his artistry as his entrepreneurial business spirit. His work was recently included in the inaugural international juried art exhibition, “CA -32 Degrees Latitude: Landscapes,” at the California Museum of Art, Thousand Oaks. He was featured in the 5th Biennial of Fine Art for Abstract and Fine Art in London, 2017; the Soho Photo Gallery in New York, 2016; Berlin’s 4th Biennial of Fine Art in 2016; and in the Top 40 Artist Show at the LA Center for Digital Art in 2015.

“Puctum” hosted by the Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, will be on display through October 28 in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center, open from noon to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday at 777 NW Beach Drive.

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