Santa Fe curator selects Bleesz’s "Latino of Vail’ photo
Singletree fine art photographer Raymond A. Bleesz’s entry to the “Vision 2: Contemporary Colorado Photography at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center,” was chosen for exhibition by Steve Yates, Curator of Photography at the Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Bleesz, a member of the Colorado Photographic Arts Center in Denver, has been an active participant since the 1970s. The Arts Center, a member of the Denver Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, has long been recognized as a major photographic arts dynamo in the state of Colorado and surrounding Rocky Mountain region since 1963. National and international exhibits and jurors have consistently shown outstanding traditional and contemporary photo art.
Bleesz’s photo, one of a series of images the photographer had been working on over a four year period is titled “Latino Series of Vail, Colorado – Pregnant Couple.” The large framed image, 22×28 silver gelatin archival print, is a portrait of a young Vail Latino couple, names unknown at this time, though Bleesz was recently told the couple is still living in Vail. The photographer, who is not fluent in Spanish, was unable to obtain the names of the individuals due to the shooting conditions.
The “Latino Series of Vail, Colorado” is a photo project Bleesz initiated at Dobson Ice Arena when the facility was rented out periodically – usually in the winter months –for an evening of dance for the Latino community. A local Hispanic entrepreneur rented out the facility, hired local as well as Mexican traveling bands, and promoted an evening of socializing and dancing for the Hispanic community in the Vail Valley and surrounding environs.
A portable studio was set up by Bleesz on the second floor of the ice arena, with strobe lights, 4×5 camera, photographing interested individuals and couples, many of whom could not speak English. In many cases the hombres dressed in their best clothing – creased jeans, ‘gator boots, silver rodeo buckles and their best-shaped Resistols. The senoras and senoritas likewise dressed elegantly in their dresses and high heels. T55 Polaroid PN film was utilized during the sessions with the subjects receiving a “carte-de-viste” print while the photographer kept the negatives. Working in adverse conditions of dimmed lighting, outrageously loud music, flashing stage lighting, stage-enhancing smoke, language barrier ordeals and late night work (portraits were taken at midnight or later), Bleesz amassed several years’ worth of negatives.
“The Latino Series of Vail, Colorado” has run its course at the ice arena Bleesz says, and the photographer has given thought to re-establishing the series in another format.
“Photographing the Chicanos at the dance was noteworthy and culturally stimulating to this Anglo,” says Bleesz. “The bands usually played barrio folk music – corridos – perhaps Tejano or Norteno, each having their distinctive styles and beat.”
The juror, Steve Yates, is an editor, curator, researcher, lecturer and essayist. He was the first Senior Fulbright Scholar in the history of photography to the USSR, Russia and Eastern Europe in 1991 and 1995. He is a specialist in early modern art history, including Eastern European photography and contemporary practices after modern photography. Recent lectures and exhibits include Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Alexander Rodchenko, Georgy Zelma, Joel-Peter Witkin and Betty Hahn.
Yates is the first curator of photography appointed to the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe. He is the recipient of awards including the National Endowment for the Arts Photographers Fellowship. Yates holds doctoral and masters degrees in the history of photography and is published. His activities are published in Who’s Who in American Art and Who’s Who in the West.
The Colorado Photographic Arts Center is located at 1513 Boulder St, Denver, just north and west of lower downtown. The exhibition runs Dec.12 through January 24, with an opening night reception from 5:30-8 p.m.
For more information, contact Bleesz at 926-9182 or 926-5424. A sampling and examples of his work can be seen at Brush Creek Dry Goods in Edwards.