Letters

Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

Home · Articles · News · Art · Photo Replay
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Photo Replay

Al Parker - August 15th, 2011


Steve Ballance says his interest in photographic processes is comparable
to the ancient practice of alchemy where the wizard attempted to turn base
metals into gold.
For decades, he’s been intrigued by how one’s perception is changed by the
processes that translate subject matter to the viewer.
“There’s a lot of conceptualization in my work,” says Ballance, whose
impressive portfolio is dominated by still life cornerstones of flowers
and female nudes who are often adorned in elaborate paper-mache masks.
Much of it is based on classical myths of the Greeks and Romans.
“I just want them (viewers) to look at it and decide if they find it
interesting. I use the masks to get people to not personalize the image.”
Much of Ballance’s works involve a process known as Polaroid Transfer, in
which the image is photographed on Polaroid film. It is then peeled apart
before it can completely develop and the part containing the dyes is
pressed onto dampened watercolor paper. Ballance then scans them into a
computer and has them printed on an inkjet printer.
“There’s something that happens in the transfer process,” he explains. “I
can’t predict what happens, but I like the way it comes out.”

‘MORE FUN TO MAKE’
His work can be seen at the Artist Design Network in Traverse City and
online at the Gallery 50 website www.galleryfifty.com .
“I’m not that interested in marketing my art, I’m much more interested in
making it,” he says. “Frankly, it’s much more fun to make it than sell it.
My audience is a small audience.”
Ballance’s parents moved the family to Traverse City when he was a
three-year-old. He attended TC schools before heading to Michigan State
University where he majored in psychology.
“I didn’t study art, but my girlfriend was an artist, so I was always
around art,” he recalls. “When I graduated, I took my graduation money and
bought a camera. A co-worker taught me some camera techniques and then I
went to Chicago where I learned how to use a darkroom.”
After suffering a back injury in 1973, Ballance returned to Traverse City
and began hanging out at NMC’s burgeoning art department. “The most
interesting people were in the art department,” he laughs. “So I taught a
photo class there and have been there ever since.”
That relationship continues to this day. Ballance is the program’s
Professor Emeritus, though he officially retired from NMC 11 years ago. As
a professor, Balance mainly taught classes in design and digital
photography.

CONSERVING AS RESOURCE
When asked about other artists whose work he admires, he quickly rattles
off the names of NMC colleagues, including printmaker Doug Domine, potter
Mike Torre and photographer Sheila Stafford.
While a handful of artists like Ballance continue to create images with
Polaroid, or Instant film, it has been supplanted for general use by
digital photography. Consequently, in 2008 Polaroid halted production of
its instant film.
Now only two companies continue to manufacture instant film – Fuji and The
Impossible Project, a group of people who took control of the old Polaroid
manufacturing equipment to continue making Polaroid-compatible film after
falling in love with the works of artist Stephanie Schneider.
“I bought up a bunch of Polaroid film and I still have 15 or 20 boxes in
my refrigerator,” says Ballance, who has also been tinkering with
developing images without the use of a camera, directly scanning objects
on a flatbed scanner.
Several of his floral works featuring vibrant tulips display brilliant
colors and richness achieved by directly scanning them on the flatbed
surface. “I’ve always been interested in the tools that are used to create
images and art,” explains Ballance. “Whether they are cameras, scanners or
computers.”
In his ongoing search for new artistic endeavors, Ballance recently
attended a workshop on photopolymer gravure, a process for producing
etchings from digital images. Some feel that these etchings rival the
quality of traditional copper plate photogravure, while others find that
the lack of differential depth in the polymer coating compromises quality.
Currently he’s focusing on building a studio to house his projects. But
Ballance continues to push the boundaries of image making by examining
creative ways to link-up a digital camera and a scanner together to make
innovative images that challenge viewer’s perceptions and ask “What
exactly is photography?”

 
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