Photographer explores good, evil

Photo by Andrea Poteet

Darkness and light
Wyandotte artist Patricia Izzo thumbs through a magazine about black and white photography in her studio, housed in River’s Edge Gallery in Wyandotte. Izzo’s black and white and hand-painted photography are on display as part of the three-artist exhibit “Affairs With Serpents and Heroines” through Jan. 31.

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WYANDOTTE – For Wyandotte artist Patricia Izzo, a commitment to capturing life through her camera lens means a refusal to shy away from the dark side.

“Not everything is going to be beautiful,” Izzo says, standing in her studio in River’s Edge Gallery, “If you are with humanity, you have to go to both sides, the dark and the light.”

That mantra informs all of Izzo’s work, from a portrait of a man who cheated death several times only finally to succumb to a drug overdose, to her current exhibit, Affairs with Serpents and Heroines, at River’s Edge, where she is the artist in residence.

The show, which continues through Jan. 31, pairs Izzo’s fine art film and hand-painted photography with work from two other artists, Brigit Huttermann-Holz, who uses fire, beeswax, wood and paint to create multi-textured pieces, and Barbara Melnik Carson, who creates three-dimensional work with clay and found objects.

Together, the women tell stories of good and evil in all aspects of life, from mythology and history to fairy tales. The artists approached gallery owner Patt Slack with the idea more than a year ago.

“The idea was the dark and the light, the good and the bad, the joy and the sorrow, the challenge and the reward,” Izzo said.

A “meet the artists,” event for the exhibit is planned for Jan. 20 at the gallery, during the city’s Third Friday event.

The exhibit showcases Izzo’s prime source of inspiration: people. Her photographs feature no professional models, but friends, family and strangers as subjects and draw from themes she finds in books, films, and her own personal history.

A photograph entitled “Bad Geisha,” features her daughter as a geisha, with lipstick smeared over her mouth, as if from a kiss, after she read a book about geishas and learned that they were forbidden from falling in love.

Another, called “Pioneeress,” features a young girl holding a rifle, to represent Wild West heroine Calamity Jane. Other works in the collection pay homage to Emily Dickinson, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” and Tinker Bell, and capture moments with her subjects, not poses.

She said she prefers to think of her subjects more as “collaborators” than models, and prefers the “tension,” and authenticity real people bring to her work, which has been showcased at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the University of Michigan Museum, and galleries stretching from Florida to Canada.

“I’m motivated by the human being and written word,” Izzo said, “the commonality of being human. My work tries to express that thread.”

Next, she will showcase that theme with the exhibit “Homage,” in which she will pay tribute to one of her photography heroes, Diane Arbus. The exhibit opens at the gallery Feb. 17.