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Art & Life with Bart Ross

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bart Ross.

Bart, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I think it’s genetic that I am in the arts. My father was a dabbler artist. He’s been a painter, printmaker, sculptor, jeweler, collector and at 92, an award-winning needlepoint artist. My mother was a collector and supporter of artists and arts organizations. My four brothers have all been involved in one fashion or another in the visual and performing arts.

My earliest memory about photography revolves around a trip to Disneyland. I was about 10 years old and was given access to a Kodak Instamatic camera for the trip. It showed me a way of capsulizing life that I’d never even considered before.

At 18, in the spring of 1974, I went to a photography seminar sponsored by the Friends of Photography, in Carmel, CA. There were lectures by Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Bret Weston, Cole Weston, and Minor White, to name a few. My portfolio review session with Ralph Gibson and Arthur Taussig were pivotal to my career and is an important part of why I take photographs.

San Francisco State University (SFSU) was perfect for me. It gave me every opportunity to develop artistically, academically, professionally and personally. At SFSU, Neal White, Don Worth, Ralph Putzker, Catherine Wagner, John Collier and especially Jack Welpott had great influences on my photographic approach and philosophy.
My current work starts there and through the magic of Photoshop, reveals a place for emotion and meditation that the original image keeps hidden in its claim to existence in the real world. I began innocently trying to capture what I saw and to my surprise, produced what the camera saw. Now I capture what can only be felt, not just visually but emotionally, maybe even spiritually as well. The journey and story continue.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I call my recent work “Modern Mandalas”. My goal here is to start with a single image, multiply it by 4 and transform it into something that can stand on its own as one image (not be duplicate images even though they start as ‘copies’). It is a different way to see the world and because I have a new paradigm of the world, it has to be re-photographed. Since 2009, I have done exactly that. Instead of using a large format camera as was customary for me, I now use a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. I first shot everything in my house and yard, then the wife and kids. Now I take that camera almost everywhere I go As I walk around I am bending and flipping objects to see if it would make an interesting thing to look at in the way that people see this new world, this new paradigm.

In the days of the dark room there was a technique called “Flopping”. You can create this effect if you take a negative and print on one half or, in our case, one quarter of the page while not exposing the other half (or three quarters). You then flop the negative over and expose the other half of the photographic paper.

The Mandalas for me were addictive. Still are. I think I know why. I feel it has something to do with the visual sympathetic nervous system. The brain likes patterns, visual rhythms, the brain likes symmetry – balance and again visual rhythm. I feel a meditative euphoria when looking at these images. I am convinced that my brain releases pleasure chemicals when it can create patterns and form shapes out of visual nonsense.

The symmetry and patterns stimulate my visual sympathetic nervous system which dispenses pleasure chemicals to the brain – Visual Crack. Meditation is what Islamic artists achieved in their visual presentation of geometry and math. Islamic art frees the visual sympathetic nervous system from the task of processing the visual information that is a representation of a thing or figurative image. The patterns and geometry allow the brain to enter into a visual, meditative state of consciousness that has been described by some as the god consciousness meaning you can get the same sort of meditation visually that you get from a mantra or chant.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park is a great place. Open Show San Diego produced by Amanda Dahlgren and Kris Moore provide a great service to the photographic community. Medium Festival of Photography is also a great resource for photographers to display their portfolios for critique and feedback. Most importantly, keep creating and share your work as much as you can wherever you can.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
The best place to see my work is on Instagram (@BartRossArt) or on my website www.BartRoss.com. I show and lecture about the work from time to time (most recently, Open Show San Diego) and I post the information of upcoming shows on Instagram. I have work in private collections mostly in California. My work in public collections includes the LaGrange Art Museum in LaGrange, Georgia and, fittingly, I have 9 large pieces in the Optical Department of the newly constructed Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Medical Offices in Los Angeles.

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Image Credit:
Bart Ross

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