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About the Photographer
American, b. 1975 Buffalo, NY
John Opera makes photographs in the spirit of transcendentalism, the idea of emphasizing the importance of the individual soul, and promoting a form of self-knowledge that can be acquired by experiencing divinity directly through nature. His lush landscapes and entrancing abstractions are made to co-exist but also to affect one another in a push and pull of form and content, surface and depth, specificity and elusiveness. His landscapes can deliver powerful depictions of nature. Yet for all their picturesque quality, they are not always spectacular. Opera’s landscapes are not intended to communicate the grandeur of nature in the tradition of the European Romantic painters. Rather, like the American Transcendentalists, Opera goes to nature for inspiration, exploring the power of the mundane to elicit a feeling of interiority and an awareness of the subjectivity of experience. He then sets up a dialectic between representational and abstract work as a vehicle for expressing these broader concerns, as a way to probe the powerful links between emotion, intellect, and perception.
John Opera’s unique anthotypes are made using antiquarian photographic processes involving photosensitive material derived from various berries and vegetables. Painting with inks on water in a glass-bottomed tray over an exposure unit, Opera creates a marbleized composition. He then exposes the image to light and onto a contact print, creating a negative. The negative is then placed over paper treated with natural dyes (beets, blueberries, and pokeberries) that fade away when left to age in sunlight for weeks at a time. Opera’s intention in using the anthotype process is first to emphasize the dialectic between photography’s surface qualities and its qualities as illusionistic and indexical space. Secondly, the works make reference to the inherent relationship between liquid chamical reactions inside the natural world and their connected activity that brings a traditional photographic image into being.
John Opera completed his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2005) and a BA in Photography from the State University of New York at New Paltz (1998). His work has been included in numerous exhibitions such as at Higher Pictures, New York, NY (2015); DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, IL (2013); and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (2011).