Photographer Ron Germundson was on a 1,300-mile bike ride through the backroads of Wisconsin and Michigan last week.
For a photographer with a sharp eye, that’s a lot like giving free run of a pastry shop to a person with a sweet tooth. Germundson couldn’t help himself. Surrounded by visual temptations, he would frequently jump off his bike to photograph an old barn or river scene, much to the consternation of his wife.
But for Germundson, whose work has been described as “photo impressionism,” the photo marks only the first stage of a process of turning his images into art. Thanks to Photoshop’s refining tools, which allows him to add images and textures, the photograph becomes Germundon’s canvas. Those unfamiliar with his techniques, consequently, confuse his final product as a painting.
“I still call myself a photographer,” Germundson says. “But when people look at my work in a gallery, they say, ‘Oh, it’s a wonderful painting.’ I say, ‘No, it’s a photograph.’”
Germundson, of New Brighton, is one of 38 regional artists whose work will be featured at the Lanesboro Arts Gallery this summer. “In the Moonlight” is the theme of this summer’s show. It will include work by sculptors, jewelers, painters, photographers and mixed-media types, all revolving around the theme of moonlight.
The show opened on Saturday and will run through Aug. 14. The Lanesboro gallery is free and open seven days a week through August.
Robbie Brokken, the gallery’s director, said invitations went out to more than 400 artists, and about 50 invitees applied. Of the 250 images submitted, 42 pieces were selected by a juried panel.
What’s interesting about a themed show, Brokken says, is the broad range of work that can emerge from artists, even when the theme is narrowly tailored.
“It’s wonderful, because you give 10 artists a lump of clay and say, ‘Make a boat.’ And everybody does something entirely different,” says Brokken.
The Lanesboro gallery runs five different exhibitions a year that draw between 20,000 to 25,000 visitors each year. The gallery’s downtown location, at 103 Parkway Ave. N, is also emblematic of the exalted place enjoyed by arts in the small southeastern Minnesota community (population 754).
Brokken says Lanesboro hosts one of the largest number of artists per capita in the U.S. and was named one of the top 12 rural art communities in America. And that community of artists creates a virtuous cycle in Lanesboro.
“It seems to be attractive to the creative audience, and therefore attracts many tourists and people who want to live here,” says Brokken.
Germundson’s own artistic life is emblematic of the evolving nature of art. Impressionism arose in the 1880s and 1890s, partly in response to photography, which could replicate reality as well, if not better than, any painting. With their loosened brush strokes, painters, led by such artists as Claude Monet, sought a style of representational art that did not rely on realistic depictions.
Photographers, with the help of powerful software, have moved into that same artistic realm.
Although Germundson considers himself a photographer, the tools and thought processes he uses are not unlike those of a painter.
“I mean, the computer is like a paint palette, and I use that to create the image I pre-perceived,” he says.
The photo featured at the Lanesboro gallery was taken at a friend’s place near St. John’s University. The original picture was of a pond. Germundson then added a heron and textures from other photos he’s taken. He added the moon, too.
But don’t suggest that Germundson manipulates his work.
“I hate the word manipulation,” he says. “It seems to suggest that you’re trying to trick somebody. I’m not trying to trick anybody, I’m just trying to make it more beautiful.”
If you go
What “In the Moonlight” group show
Where Lanesboro Art Gallery, 103 Parkway Ave. N, Lanesboro
When Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Exhibit runs through Aug. 14