Nature through one photographer's lens
Dawna Bell doesn't get offended when people look at her abstract photographs and mistake the subject for things like beans or corn.
"I like to take a picture close-up so that when a person is viewing it they don't quite know what it is. It's a play of light, color and texture," Bell said. "We need to think. We are used to having things in front of us we can recognize. (Abstracts) engage us in the art."
That's why she chose several abstracts and macro photographs — close-ups — to display at the Wilsonville Fred Meyer for the next month.
Local Starbucks patrons can now enjoy their morning pick-me-up with 14 of Bell's nature visuals.
Since the opening of Fred Meyer at 30300 Boones Ferry Road, Wilsonville, they have allowed the fine arts program at Wilsonville High School to select rotating artwork for display at the Starbucks inside. The rotating exhibit features work by students, graduates or faculty who have a connection to WHS.
"I'm always honored to be asked to show my work," Bell said. "I'm thrilled to get this opportunity."
Bell, who has been in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District since 1994, retired in June as a seventh-grade science teacher after 23 years at Athey Creek Middle School.
She remembers a professional development program —- a day for teachers to present workshops to fellow teachers —- that used to exist in the district, about 16 years ago. There was a student and faculty art display where Bell brought in a couple of her photographs to display.
"I was nervous because when you first put yourself out there, it's scary," Bell said. "Showing work is a performance and from that, I started showing more pieces."
With no formal photography training, Bell never thought of herself as a photographer, even after she sold her first photograph, a close-up of a blanket flower blossom with a bee at the center, in 2006.
"I'm not trying to do something photographic as much as I'm trying to share what I see and how I see it," Bell said. "It's not photography that's driving my images, it's the science and beauty."
An outdoor and travel enthusiast, she captures photos and keeps them in their most raw form — without photo manipulation or special lenses.
"I am where I am, the light is what it is," Bell said. "I want to show and take what I see without changing it so it's not real anymore."
Since 2006, she has sold more than 100 images, including numerous greeting cards and calendars without enhancing the images in any way.
Another uniqueness that radiates from Bell is her use of various mediums. The Starbucks display showcases three: paper, canvas and metal.
"How (the image) is depicted on different mediums changes the image depending upon what medium you use," Bell said, adding that when a photograph gets infused into aluminum, the image appears to shimmer and the lighting changes when the viewer moves around the image. "When canvas became a way to do photographic prints, that was appealing because depending on the piece, you can get almost a painted look. It gives it texture and it can be printed in wrap-around (form) so it gives it a 3-D look."
Bell has a permanent display at Circle Healthcare Clinic in Portland and has displayed in Portland restaurants like Bread and Ink Café and Chez Machin Creperie. She has also done several in-home shows out of the comfort of her southeast Portland home.
"I clear out the living room, dining room, (make some) hot cider and have people come in," Bell said, adding that she hasn't done an in-home show in a couple years because of the amount of time and work it takes.
Bell currently works at Marylhurst University, helping to create the Science Masters of Arts in Teaching program. But she will never lose sight of her hobby.
"I want to show what beauty is there without tweaking it," Bell said. "We don't really have to manipulate our world so much when there's already so much beauty there."