Saturday, October 9, 2010

Isa Leshko's Thrills and Chills at Houston Arts Alliance


Isa Leshko Thrills & Chills
On view at Houston Arts Alliance Gallery from October 14 – December 31, 2010
Opening reception: October 14, 6 - 8 p.m. 3201 Allen Parkway, Houston, TX 77019

HOUSTON, TX - Houston Arts Alliance is proud to announce Isa Leshko's first solo exhibition in Houston, Thrills & Chills. The show consists of black and white images that “explore the fantastic and sinister place” amusement rides hold in Leshko’s imagination. The images were taken at boardwalks, parks, and county fairs throughout New England, the New Jersey shore, and Ohio.

Opening Reception for the exhibition at Houston Arts Alliance Gallery, 3201 Allen Parkway, Houston, TX on Thursday, October 14, 6 - 8 p.m. This exhibition is accompanied by a limited edition catalog (ISBN: 978-0-615- 35421-7) that will be available for purchase at the reception.

About her work, Leshko writes:
Amusement park rides terrify me, which is why I began photographing them. I am fascinated by what compels people to surrender themselves to these mechanical beasts. The rides seem to challenge the very limitations of being human. We can’t fly; yet these vertigo-inducing machines allow us to soar through the open air. The experience combines elation with fear; thrills with chills.... With some of these images, I suspend disbelief and embrace the underlying fantasies of these rides. With other images, I examine the tensions that exist between fantasy and reality. I am interested in exploring the range of emotions—from anger to shock to exultation—that people exhibit in pursuit of the amusement these rides are supposed to provide.

A smaller selection of these images was exhibited in April 2010 at the Griffin Museum of Photography near Boston, MA. In his review of the show, Boston Globe critic Mark Feeney wrote: “[Leshko’s images]...are very striking: sinister and funny and disorienting all at once.”

The Wave, 2010 Courtesy of the artist and John Cleary Gallery (Houston, TX)

Leshko created her images with an inexpensive plastic film camera called a Holga. This toy camera is stripped down to the bare essentials: it has one shutter speed for normal shooting and a “bulb” mode that allows the photographer to manually open and close the shutter. Its plastic lens has only one aperture. The camera is not light tight, so its back must be sealed with black tape to protect the film inside. The camera’s plastic lens distorts the scale of the rides, particularly when they are photographed against the open sky, lending the images a surreal feel. Leshko finds working with the Holga puts her in the mindset of being a passenger on these rides. “Working with such an imprecise and flawed camera is a frightening and liberating experience, akin to being on a roller coaster,” she states.

Leshko is a fine art photographer based in Houston, TX, represented by John Cleary Gallery (Houston, TX). She has exhibited her work extensively through the United States, including at the Griffin Museum of Photography (Winchester, MA), Gallery 339 (Philadelphia, PA), the Rayko Photo Center (San Francisco, CA), Newspace Center for Photography (Portland, OR), Photographic Resource Center (Boston, MA), and the Soho Photo Gallery (New York, NY). Earlier this year, the Boston Public Library recently purchased five prints from Thrills & Chills for their permanent collection. Leshko has received four Prix de la Photographie, Paris Awards and an honorable mention for Houston Center for Photography's 2010 Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship. Her work was also included in Portfolio Showcase Volume 4 that was published earlier this year by the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado. In addition, she was selected for the 2010 Review Santa Fe portfolio review and is a 2010 Finalist in the highly competitive Critical Mass competition. Her work is under consideration for acquisition by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and currently part of the Photo Forum exhibit at the museum. This series was also featured in Issue 12 of Fraction Magazine. For more info, please visit:

About HAA
The Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization. The mission is to support and promote artistic life in the Houston region through programs, initiatives and alliances. Advancing the nonprofit arts industry in Greater Houston improves the region's quality of life, ensures a competitive economy, and creates an appealing tourist destination. As one of the country's fastest growing cities and the world's energy capital, Houston is now a center for art of extraordinary caliber and diversity.
However, as a comparatively new city, Houston has not yet achieved national recognition as a cultural destination. Through alliances with business, education, tourism and arts leadership, HAA is charged with elevating the visibility of the arts in Houston, increasing audiences, and promoting regional cultural tourism. HAA is also charged with promoting Houston as an arts capital, thereby increasing tourism to Houston and affirming Houston's growing reputation for quality of life.

About the Houston Center for Photography
HCP's mission is to increase society's understanding and appreciation of photography and its evolving role in contemporary culture. HCP strives to encourage artists, build audiences, stimulate dialogue, and promote inquiry about photography and related media through education, exhibitions, publications, fellowship programs, and community collaboration. HCP is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving as a resource to its members and the community with programs that have regional and national impact.

About John Cleary Gallery
John Cleary Gallery was established in 1996, in its current location on Gallery Row by long time photography and rare book collector, John Cleary. In the last 14 years, the gallery has evolved into the premier destination for fine art photography in Houston.

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