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Pura Vida: Images of Paradise

“Pura Vida” translates simply as “pure life”, but to Costa Ricans it expresses much more: “Life is wonderful; enjoy it!” A current photography exhibit at Northwest College in Powell has taken the title “Pura Vida: Images of Paradise” and illustrated it with 30 remarkable photographs taken in Costa Rica over the 2017 spring break.

I’m always amazed at the “eye” of a photographer; the ability to see angles and perspectives that escape the rest of us. Finding a shadow pattern along a path, Christine Garceau has captured a wonderful abstract shot of ferns against dusty stone in “Light in Fugue.” The shadow ferns are framed by real, green fronds, leading your eye along a path and up a stone staircase. Lori Riesland’s “Life Finds a Way” is also a light-and-shadow study of a delicate vine threading through a sturdy fern.

“Sleepy” — Jayne Johnson — A nocturnal red eyed tree frog protects itself during the day by sleeping with its back legs covering its blue sides, and bright feet tucked under its body, allowing it to be virtually unseen among the foliage

I’m haunted by Jayne Johnson’s “Red-Eyed Tree Frog.” That little frog clinging to his blade of grass seems so confident of his invisibility, not realizing we can admire every detail of his luminous green skin and patterned ribs. Striking patterns are drawn in water and sand by retreating tidewaters, exposing wandering crustacean trails in Tia Pierce’s “Sunrise Sand Crab.” The prints are impressive in their composition and technique, particularly the long exposures of shimmering waterfalls framed by crisply focused rocks and plants. The light-filled water contrasts with lichen-etched rocks and pulls one into the frame. I can almost feel the spray. Molly Gjervold and Lori Riesland both caught splendid views of the La Paz falls.  Other photographers selected a rainbow of birds, animals and butterflies for the exhibit.

On the urban side, I enjoyed a quiet chuckle at the juxtaposition of city architecture echoed in colorful graffiti. One picture shows colorful toucans paired on rustic garage doors, while another shot features a concrete wall of spray-painted artwork echoed by red railings and buttresses of the industrial building rising over it. An elderly woman swathed in muffler and cap strides past the gaze of a gigantic all-seeing blue eye. Her butter-yellow vest and the hot pink of her shopping cart add to the delightful color contrasts.

A few photos show stages in the coffee industry, from a bright flowered twig through heaps of drying coffee beans being turned in the sun.

“Sunrise Sand Crab” — Tia Pierce— The beach in Manuel Antonio is home to a vast number of sand crabs that leave trails throughout the sands. By day’s end there are mazes of trails but in the early morning the trails are simpler as the crabs start their ventures.

The range of the exhibit is eclectic but somehow harmonious, leaving the viewer with a clear sense of Costa Rica’s “pura vida”.

Sponsored by the NWC Photographic Communications Department, field studies class students, faculty, alumni and community members traveled to Costa Rica in March of 2017 and came back with these treasures. The Doka Estate near Alajuela, a leading coffee exporter, was one of their stops. Also included are scenes and topics ranging from the La Paz waterfalls to Playa Mar Y Sol and the Manuel Antonio National Park. The exhibited photos range from wildly colorful to subtly monochromatic, and from pure nature shots to urban panoramas.

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“Pura Vida” opened May 2, and will continue through Sept. 8 in Northwest College’s SinClair Gallery. The exhibit is free, and open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. all summer, in the Orendorff Building.  The contact person for NWC exhibits is Denise Kelsay, the art and galleries coordinator, at 307-754-6499.

Bobbie Brown, originally from Australia, lived in various western states, before anchoring herself to a cattle ranch in northwest Wyoming in 1989. In her former lives she has worked at a Napa Valley champagne winery, done some opera singing, and concierged at a dude ranch. She currently teaches English as a second language online to Japanese students, and studies art at Northwest College in Powell.

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