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Circle of Talent 

Warehouse show exposes richness of local photography scene

If you live in Colorado Springs and you're a photographer, you likely know the Circle of Confusion. If not, then you should.

A loosely organized group of local photographers, the Circle convenes once a month to share ideas, techniques, stories and beer. Among their mix are commercial portrait photographers, amateur and professional nature photographers, digital masters, fine art types and neophytes.

This month and next they've got a show hanging at the Warehouse Gallery that demonstrates the wide range of interest and talent in the group. The room is enormous, and some of the smaller works seems lost on the tall brick walls of the expansive gallery, but a close look is well worth the effort.

"Photography records the gamut of feelings written on the human face, the beauty of the earth and skies that man has inhabited and the wealth and confusion that man has created," said Edward Steichen, master of the form. The Circle of Confusion show echoes that basic guideline.

Jeff Clark's black-and-white piece, "Alone," captures vertical parallel lines in the grain of rough, weathered wood. In the center, a knothole forms a perfect heart. "Young and Old Saguaros" by John Sparks achieves a similar feat -- turning a close-up view of nature into a moral statement.

Paul Jaeger's superb wide angle nature photography is on display -- his "Canyon de Chelly" captures either first or last light of day, a broad golden streak across ancient rock faces. And Warren Pearce's close-ups of patterns in nature offer a completely different but equally interesting point of view. "Pine Needles" is a finely detailed shot of pine needles and lichen, taken from above, revealing an intricate wavy pattern worn by wind and rain.

Larry Hampton's exquisite prints of textured surfaces are peaceful and still -- in "Monterey Cypress" taken in Point Lobos, California, a single twisted tree in a hard-scrabble landscape appears to exude light from within.

Though this is the West and, naturally, nature photography comprises the majority of images in the show, experiments with technique, texture and vision are on display too.

Jim Doenges colorful, large, playful compositions take ordinary subject matters and mix them up in surreal still lifes. "The Bedroom" is a wonderful piece -- a blue mattress, covered with wisps of clouds, sits on a field of tall grass, beneath a grove of golden aspen. In "The Bathtub," Doenges plays with color, taking plain, well-used fixtures and turning them into an inviting fantasy place worthy of Pee Wee Herman's playhouse.

David Beightol's digital series, "Hibiscus 2, 3 and 4" are long panels, electrically colored, capturing the gradual demise of a hibiscus blossom and graphically illustrating the transient nature of art and life. Beightol's computer enhanced imagery shimmers and teases, proving that digital photography has indeed entered the realm of fine art.

Peter Papadopoulos' large panels show best in the Warehouse space. "Ken O'N" is composed of four large panels, each capturing a segment of a human figure's rugged face and enormous hands. A mysterious shiny ball sets the piece slightly off center, creating intrigue and tension. Papadopoulos' "Taos, NM" is a gorgeous male nude, setting off the rich contrast between silver hair and bronze body.

Nestled in the center of the west wall of the gallery are a group of black-and-white photos by Lee Manning which do what photography does best of all the visual arts -- each of Manning's prints tells a story. "Summer Friends" is a lovely print of a wide field and fence, out of focus against a sunset sky, bordered by a narrow dirt road. At the crest, two perfectly focused figures, barefoot and in shorts are silhouetted against the sky. "Old Friends" is another lovely silhouette shot, this time of the backs of a bunch of old men, sitting on a bench in some European city.

There's something for everyone at this show, and most of the photographs are for sale at very reasonable prices. Afford yourself a lunch hour or an evening one day soon to soak up some of the best photography our photographer-rich town has to offer.

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