ArtBeat – Steve Solinsky and Frank Francis at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center

By Ed Goldman

The new show(s) debuting on Saturday at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center—Steve Solinsky’s “Of Stillness & Light” and Frank Francis’s “Along the Wide Rivers of Bangladesh”—offer dissimilar but equally eye-popping color photography, brilliant displays of emotional content, transcendence and technical virtuosity. 

It makes you wonder why anyone still consigns photography, along with often gorgeous craft products, to the “Not Art” children’s table. This stuffy disdain—encouraged generations ago by the Mensa-mouthed, over-educated but under-aesthetic reviewers for such bloated tree-wasting magazines as Art In America and ARTnews— is simply beyond its sell-by date. It reminds one of how the Impressionists first snorted at, then gladly deployed, photography to help them paint things the naked eye struggled to decipher (like a horse in full gallop: Trigger isn’t going to move in slow-mo so you can fully capture each straining and stretching sinew). To recap, art is art, art is life, and sometimes, life-plus or life-minus. It doesn’t have to originate on a canvas, board or watercolor paper.

Solinsky’s work at Viewpoint, which has the same name as his new book of images and comprises a sort of spiritual travelogue, is inspired by his wanderings and wonderings. His practice of Buddhism is writ gently but firmly in a wide range of photos and topics: everything from what appears to be a modest apartment house in Europe being softly drizzled on by a spring rain, to a stirringly evocative (as in, Wish I Were There) depiction of a country lane and arbor, with a light at the end of a copses-molded tunnel. 

A playful picture, “Curious Cowtenance,” sees a shy bovine peering over a dune, while “Migration” is a sensuously composed shot of distant birds flying over what appears to be a marshland (to me, it’s reminiscent of some of the unself-conscious tableaux you can see in the Yolo Wilderness Basin in mid-winter as the Pacific Flyway braces for non-stop avian traffic).

I also greatly enjoyed Solinsky’s object-capture imagery, such as a weathered brass chair framed against a pale-yellow wall, with a wizened red doorway behind it,  across from a lime green one (“Solitaire”), and “House of the Spirits,” which presents a sneak peek of a sanctuary, with hanging masks serving as sentries.

Frank Francis’s “Along the Wide Rivers of Bangladesh” is a stunning journey through the land- and peoplescape of the South Asia country whose teeming population could teach urban planners a thing or two about the pitfalls of density and infill housing. 

Nonetheless, in Francis’s delineations of the quietly lovely countryside and waterways that weave their way throughout the jam-packed population, he achieves what he says his aim was in his exhibition notes. “I have tried to capture simplicity as a form of beauty on the great rivers of Bangladesh,” he writes, where “life, largely devoid of mechanization, is a life of toil with dignity, a life of barter and exchange centered on the rivers and fishermen, with their antique boats and nets.”

I loved every one of Francis’s pieces (as you will, too) but was equally taken by his documenting of his photo safari.  “The travels were solo, a boat crew and me sleeping toe-to-toe on the deck, an Asian Immersion,” he recalls. “I owe a great deal to photography; it has provided me with the impetus to try to catch a world foreign to my experience….It is said that a poet must find her or his music or they are only speaking mere words. It is clear that a photographer must also find her or his music.”

The Solinsky and Francis shows run to Saturday, June 4, and officially open on Second Saturday, May 14 (3 to 7 p.m.). There’s also a Sunday artists reception May 15 (2 to 5 p.m.). Viewpoint is located at 2015 J. Street, Suite 101, Sacramento, CA 95811-3124. The phone is 916-441-2341.

One Buyer Be-Wary: The center is staffed by volunteers, not all of them with retail expertise—meaning, leave plenty of time for the cashier to figure out how to use the credit card device. I finally needed to leave after waiting 20 minutes to pay for a Solinsky print this past week (my parking meter was about to qualify me for one of the City of Sacramento’s draconian $50 tickets).

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About the Author

Ed Goldman wrote a daily column for the Sacramento Business Journal for eight years, often about the arts, and in 2019 began a thrice-weekly online column, The Goldman State, which now has readers in 28 states.

He has been an art collector, painter and cartoonist for 50+ years.

Explore more from Ed Goldman at goldmanstate.com.

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