Sunlight is the great equalizer. You can live in a mansion or a shack, but a shaft of sunlight streaming through a window is the same the world over: clean, bracing, bright, even hypnotic.
Fresno artist Sally Stallings has long been entranced and intrigued by light, and in the past I've admired her ability to home in on the everyday way it can mesmerize.
In 2008 she was part of a show called "Between the Lines" at the Fresno Art Museum in which she rhapsodized about the ordinary four-string, 30-foot stand-alone clothesline in her Fresno backyard. Some of the most striking photographs in that project captured the way in which sunlight streamed through her clothes.
Stallings has taken a more abstract approach to that theme with her exhibition "Everyday, the Light" at Spectrum Art Gallery. She's joined by Lindsay's Virginia Wilson, whose show "Against the Sky" captures what Wilson calls "a love affair with light."
When I was a child, I used to watch the sunlight creep through my bedroom window, casting vivid highlights and dark shadows on the bedspread and carpet. Filtered through a leafy oak tree that stood outside, sometimes the light seemed so relaxed and diffuse that it seemed like a visual lullaby. At other times, that light streamed in with such a robust presence that it felt like a call to arms: Get outside and enjoy me!
What I remember most is the meditative quality of the experience. I'd often stare, transfixed, as if I were in communion with the sun. I wish now that I could have photographed some of those light-intensive memories that are still part of my mind's eye.
That sense of capturing a private, introspective experience is at the core of Stallings' work. She focuses on the simplest of scenes: light on dishes, light on a clothesline, light on white.
In her "The Window Upstairs," the light streams through a sheer curtain. Strong vertical lines dominate, but one curve in the curtain breaks the pattern and captures the eye, giving the photo an organic sensibility. This could be a window in any house, but something about it feels firmly anchored in a sense of home and belonging.
Wilson's works are more specific — blue birch trees against a winter sky, the Eiffel Tower glimpsed through leafless branches — but they, too, get back to a basic adulation of light. Not everyone can afford a trip to Paris, but seeking light out, and reveling in its quiet wonders, can be done anywhere.
Together, the photographs in the two shows are illuminating, indeed.
"Everyday, the Light" and "Against the Sky," through April 27, Spectrum Art Gallery, 608 E. Olive Ave. (559) 266-0691, spectrumphotogallery.org. Free
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6373, firstname.lastname@example.org and @donaldbeearts on Twitter.