Arts & Culture » Arts

Couple combines surreal toy camera photography, abstract paintings into single exhibit



A joint exhibition by Rea Baldridge and Joseph Mills at JRB Art at The Elms offers two distinct art forms under one gallery show. Through her oil paintings and his photography, the Oklahoma City married couple's work stretches from tangles of color to tones of black and white.


Canvases layered with deeply hued, thick strokes based on landscapes represent the new approach Baldridge has taken to her art. One work suggests grass and sky through abstracted shades, while another has birds and branches emerging from its forest of lines and splotches. 

"They are very different from anything I've shown before because I'm re-learning how to paint," she said. "Years ago, when I was in grade school, I learned how to paint realistically and I always used at least part of that in the work that I've done until now."

For a long time, the main part of her work was conceptual multimedia, most pieces not even involving paint. The group of oils at JRB Art embodies how she has shifted back to painting without having it be a step back for her body of work.

 "I wanted to really explore the medium and try to do new things that I had not done before," she said. "But in order to break rules, you have to re-learn the rules."

While Baldridge's work displays her new method of painting, Mills' black-and-white photographs use image layering to grant a surreal look to familiar landmarks and contemporary environments. The effect comes not in a small part from his simple, but expressive, camera.

"They are all images that were captured with the Diana camera, a little toy plastic camera," he said.

Diana cameras were introduced in the early 1960s in Hong Kong, largely given away as novelty items. However, their flimsy, plastic housing has a tendency to leak light into the film, giving each camera a unique perspective and making them popular with art photographers.

"I have a typical photographer's studio full of expensive lights and cameras, and the Diana is the opposite of that: a simple plastic camera that barely works," he said. "It is a crude little device, and the challenge is to capture images that emotionally appeal to me and to others."

While Mills is mostly a commercial photographer, he has used the Diana for more than 20 years, and his work at JRB Art focuses on Old World Europe, along with a more modern local landscape.

"I was trying to cover the two big cities in the world: Paris and Oklahoma City," he said.

Without using digital editing, Mills achieved distortion in the photographs by not advancing the film. Instead, he would take multiple shots on the same exposure, letting different images encroach and overlap each other.

One of the panoramas is of the Cath


Latest in Arts

Add a comment