Friday, July 19, 2013

Blurred & Focused: Zach Burns, 24 Works on Paper Artist

Guest author: Jessika Davis OVAC Intern

Zach Burns, Oklahoma City, Hotel Duncan 63, Photography, 12” x 24”
In Hotel Duncan 63, Zach Burns gives a glimpse into his world that is both “focused and blurred.”  Because Burns is legally blind in his left eye, he places an unfocused image (left) next to an image that is sharper (right). This reveals a clear and deeper look into his perspective.  Burns said, “I reveal myself to others through my images, inviting the viewer to know my work, and to know me.”  

Jessika Davis: What is your center of focus in this piece? Why?
Zach Burns: At first glance I would say the TV. A second glance might bring the paired images to the forefront of observation. But by the third glance one should see my reflection in the TV screen, sitting on the bed. This is the true focus of the image, though it may not be immediately apparent. This image, as well as much of my photography, indirectly points itself back towards me.

I, or a representation of myself, is the center of focus in this piece because words fail me, both in writing and in conversation. I'm quiet, awkward, and shy. I use my photography to branch out, to make connections.

This image captures a moment I am all too familiar with, sitting alone in a dark room with only the television keeping me company. The photograph was made during a period of my life when I was constantly on the road, traveling to the many different small towns of Oklahoma. This was my day job. I saw the inside of countless hotel rooms (some better than others). The money was good, but my social life was borderline nonexistent. I felt isolated. A feeling I wanted to capture and to share so others might know me better.

I have since gotten another job.

JD: In what ways do you reveal yourself in your work to others? Could you name an example?
ZB: I reveal myself in varying multiple ways in each image, some literal and some more abstract. For instance the pairing of two images, one in focus and the other blurred. This is my visual experience. From birth I have been legally blind in my left eye. My view of the world is both focused and blurred. Experimenting with various methods of image capture and presentation, I am able to share this unique vision with others.

It is said that to know someone is to see things through their eyes. This is the basis of my work.

Beyond that, I reveal aspects of my personality through my images. What I am feeling at the time.

Take Hotel Duncan 63, a quiet image of the reflection of a man isolated in a hotel room furnished with all the expected objects. From this one could determine that the man in the reflection is lonely, longing to be acknowledged while also hiding safely in obscurity.

You can also catch just on the left side of the frame of the image on the right (the focused image) the camera itself (perhaps my favorite detail that I only just recently noticed), bringing new levels of awareness to the photograph; awareness of the camera, of the photographer, of the voyeuristic elements of peering in on someone's private life, placing the viewer into the image itself creating an all new dynamic.
Now that I have talked about myself for far too long, weirding me out a bit, let me end with this: some have a way with words, for others the pen is mightier. For me, I have my camera.
This artwork will be featured in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition on exhibition at IAO Gallery through August 3, 2013 and touring Oklahoma through December 2014. See venues and more information at 

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