Etiquette matters. And when you’re visiting a scrapyard, the rules of behavior are even stricter, because they have to be.
“Stay far away from the large pieces of heavy equipment being operated, employing big swinging arms with grasping tools or huge magnets that lift metal from place to place,” advises LuAnn Ostergaard, a fine art photographer who creates abstract art using digital images taken from . . . scrapyards.
“The equipment may back over you, so watch their movements,” she adds. One must also be aware of protruding points; razor sharp edges; slippery, oily areas; and huge piles of metal that may cascade down on visitors at any time.
While not a particularly friendly place, scrapyards are special locales unknown by many, the Kennewick artist explains. She first discovered them as a child, accompanying her father on his quest to glean car parts; she now visits with her son, Joseph Rastovich, a Kennewick public sculptor who buys metal there for his huge-scale projects, as well as watches out for his mom while she loses herself “in the moment and into the flow of capturing images.”
Ostergaard, who has identified herself as an artist since the first grade, comes from a long line of artists: her mother; her grandmother the singer and seamstress; her great-grandfather the concert pianist and sketcher. She married an artist, illustrator and animator Michael Rastovich, and with their son, Joseph, the three — dubbed the Talented Trio by friends — make their living creating in a home studio blurring any distinction between the two words.
“Our entire house is a studio, office, work space! We live, eat, and breathe our work.”
Upon first viewing Ostergaard’s art, many people regard her photographic images as paintings, and indeed, one of the most difficult aspects of her artwork is explaining what it actually is. They are photographs, with an attention to shape, texture, color and contrast, captured from the harsh places of the world and transformed into images enticing and enchanting.
“On the computer, I bring up the saturation and contrast, and that usually reveals gorgeous color combinations and textures that I would never think of creating on my own,” Ostergaard says.
“It’s magical, and I feel a bit of an alchemist as I transform an image of scrapyard castoffs to a thing of beauty that resonates with harmony and balance.”
Ostergaard sells her work to both private and corporate collectors, with pieces throughout the U.S. and in Sweden, Germany, UK, and Australia. One of her images is at 3 Lincoln Center, New York, NY, the building in which singer and actress Liza Minnelli lives. Others are at the Grand Hyatt Lodge, Denver, CO; Hilton Hotel, Charleston, SC; and Atlantis Hotel, Bahamas; and closer to home at the Trios Hospital in Kennewick. She sells her work at galleries, furniture stores, and jewelers throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Clients exude enthusiasm, with one purchaser commenting,
“Your camera skills are so evident — that, combined with your painting gift, puts your work in a special field: painterly photographs transposed to imaginative paintings bordering on modernity from your unique application and expression.”
What she is looking for, Ostergaard says, is an essence of genuineness, revealing the most simple bit of beauty in something that, at first glance, may appear decrepit and ugly — junk, say, in a scrapyard. It is in these harsh and forgotten places that beauty resides, hidden within and around substances that are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, many in a state of deterioration or decomposition from entropy, the gradual decline into disorder that is a part of life on earth.
Ostergaard describes this concept of entropy in conjunction with Wabi Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic philosophy that prizes the essential beauty of imperfect and impermanent things, and to which she ascribes inspiration.
“This is represented in my art by rough textures as well as marks that time and use leave behind,” Ostergaard says.
“Think of the story that can be told by the face of a very old person — the beauty of their perseverance and of the experiences they have gone through.
“This is what I want to relay through my photography: the beauty of time and experience.”
It is what keeps her going back to the dusty, noisy, aromatic, dangerous world of the scrapyard, a place with a sweet, oily smell emanating from the mixture of every imaginable chemical thrown together, including, she suspects, possible radiation from the loads of materials received from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for more than 70 years. It is a harsh, acrid, inhospitable, gritty, forgotten place, but it is Ostergaard’s wild, wonderful, wilderness world, one to which she invites the viewer.
“I want the viewer to see the subtle beauty all around them, and that beauty can be found even in things that are far from beautiful at first glance.”
LuAnn Ostergaard is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, May 22 through Saturday, June 16, 2017. Ostergaard will be at the gallery Saturday, May 27 for a special two-person art show with Portland painter David Schatz, and both artists will be on hand to meet and greet visitors from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free refreshments are provided.
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.