Few people know California as intimately as Bill Dewey does. For more than 20 years, the photographer has been exploring the state’s natural and cultural legacy from a variety of perspectives. A licensed pilot and aerial photographer by trade, Dewey has amassed one of the most comprehensive and diverse collections of regional imagery. While his current photographic exploration does not see him soaring above the landscape in search of a bird’s eye view, neither does it find him safely on terra firma. Currently on display at the Marcia Burtt Studio is Waves-a collection of color photographic prints that offers a unique oceanic encounter.

In this exhibition, Dewey takes us out past the shoreline and plunges us into the turmoil and beauty of wave action. He selects the moment of exposure impeccably; each print captures a wave at the pinnacle of its form. Rather than thrusting the viewer into chaos, the artist guides the eye through a magical, timeless world. In some works, rolling waves are left hanging, their sensual lips suspended mid-motion. Others are caught in the process of crashing out of existence, leaving nothing but a surge of spray.

The work teeters masterfully between abstraction and realism. In “Wave #6197,” it is unclear whether the subject is a wave or a sheet of ice. In contrast, “Wave #5967,” a roll of water loaded with debris-kelp and feathers-couldn’t depict its subject any more literally. Taken together, these prints provide an enticing juxtaposition. The latter also throws forth a beautifully understated metaphor for the forces that propel both the work and its subject matter. The detritus swept along by the wave has been collected through a multitude of collisions between physical forces. It has been tugged and pulled and swept into accumulation, much as Dewey has pulled from many strands of experience, drawing upon a deep sea of resources to arrive at these astonishing images.


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