It starts with a photograph, maybe a digital subway scene shot in New York City or an old negative culled from a box of pictures his father took in Japan in 1947. The next step is to enlarge the image so it's almost as big as life, then print it in sections that can be pieced together on a sturdy sheet of birch plywood. Then add an artist's touch — maybe a flash of orange and yellow paint, a wisp of airbrushing here and there, a charcoal rub or plain old pencil. Top it all off with a coat of hot wax. Hang it on the wall.
The process of Michael Conway's artwork is a little more complicated than that, and the St. Petersburg artist and photographer is more than happy to elaborate on how he came up with an idea that has taken him from roaming street photographer to guest artist at the Rao Musunuru, M.D. Art Gallery at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
"It's an evolution that started in college in the 1970s," Conway said. "I was always a traditional photographer and I was looking for a way to get outside of the photographer's box.
There was a little inspiration that came from the photo collages created by noted artist David Hockney and the conceptual photography of the Starn twins, David and Mike.
"Beyond the Proof Sheet" is Conway's first local showing and a fine way to kick off the gallery's "Influential Impressions" lineup for the 2013-14 academic year. Conway's exhibit opens Thursday with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. and runs through Sept. 26.
"We thought it was a good way to start out," said Diana Brinker, the gallery's senior office assistant. "We're very excited because the pieces are so different and so big."
Hanging this exhibit has been a process in itself. But it's more than worth the effort.
A 20-foot long piece called Degradated Shadows, an optical illusion of sorts that represents the four seasons and ought to catch the attention of those passing by.
"I saw that and knew right then that we had to bring it here," Brinker said.
All are welcome to stop in.
• • •
Gallery organizers are putting out the welcome mat throughout the coming year.
Among the season's highlights is a showing of acrylic paintings created by Jefferson Airplane guitarist Marty Balin. "Music of My Life" will feature Balin's renderings of peer musicians such as John Lennon, Janis Joplin and members of the Grateful Dead. Word is there could be a concert featured along with that exhibit.
Gallery organizers are also looking forward to the return of illustrations and sculptures created by Dr. Seuss, an exhibit that brought in thousands of schoolchildren to the gallery in 2011.
Here's what's coming up:
• Beyond the Proof Sheet, Thursday through Sept. 26. Opening reception 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.
Mixed media materials and photographs allow artist Michael Conway to expand the meaning of an image, opening a whole new world for the viewer to interpret in "Beyond the Proof Sheet."
• Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco, Oct. 3-31.
A picture really is worth a thousand words. With the help of local photographers and volunteers, the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco brings the faces of foster children into the spotlight, hoping to capture the hearts of prospective parents.
• Mobius Past & Present, Nov. 7-Dec. 11.
Compilation of works; produced by the students of Pasco-Hernando Community College.
• Music of My Life, Jan. 16-Feb. 20.
From Lennon to Jagger, Elton to Jimi to Joplin. Singer-songwriter and founding member of Jefferson Airplane Marty Balin will showcase the musical performance culture through his paintings.
• Dr. Seuss Returns, Feb. 27-April 18.
Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, delighted children for more than 60 years. His illustrations brought visual realization to his fantastical worlds. A collection of illustrations, sculptures and never seen before "secret art" will be on display. Presented by Tammy White Galleries.
• Artistic Elements Student Show, April 24-May 29.
Gallery visitors will experience first-hand the result of students' artistic exploration and knowledge of artistic elements in practice as an essential part of the design process.
• Fifth annual Faculty and Staff Summer Art Show, June 5-July 29.
PHCC faculty and staff will showcase their creative works through a variety of artistic mediums.
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected]