Photo courtesy Confluence Gallery “Work in progress” will be part of a solo exhibit by Brita Ness.

Photo courtesy Confluence Gallery

“Work in progress” will be part of a solo exhibit by Brita Ness.

By Ann McCreary

In conjunction with the new exhibit opening Saturday (Sept. 5), Confluence Gallery will feature a solo exhibit of art by Brita Ness, the gallery’s first summer artist-in-residence.

Ness, a Methow Valley native, has spent three months creating paintings in studio space provided by the gallery. Her exhibit, titled “(A?)phantasia,” explores the intricacies and limitations of human memory, and the properties of the “mind’s eye.”

“Through examining specific, personal recollections, I attempt to elucidate how imagery is stored in memory and to represent how our memories affect the ways in which our relationships to/with places grow, change, and become more complicated over time,” Ness said.

In researching properties of memory, Ness said, she became interested in the way people frequently recall not the original event, but rather the last time he or she remembered the event. Therefore, memories are often distorted by time and periodical recall, she said.

“I was also fascinated by aphantasia, a recently identified condition of a blind mind’s eye. Imagining how imagery plays a larger role in memory for some, and absolutely no role for others sparked my interest in how widely means and modes of recollection vary among individuals, as well as how my own memory fits into the spectrum,” Ness said.

For (A?)phantasia, Ness created paintings that represent specific memories associated with specific places, to provide insight into the properties of her own memory “and to develop a painted language with which to explore how and what we recall.”

Ness graduated this year with a bachelor of arts degree in studio arts from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and studied fresco painting, oil painting and photography in Rome.

She is a graduate of Liberty Bell High School where she studied art under the late Sean McCabe, who was “my earliest influence,” Ness said.

“While my practice has grown tremendously since high school, many of his lessons […] continue to guide […] my work,” she said.

Ness is the first artist selected for Confluence Gallery’s new artist-in-residence program.  The gallery provides studio space as well as mentoring and networking to the resident artists, said Salyna Gracie, Confluence director. “To be able to support one of our own (local) students is a beautiful circle,” said Gracie.

The culmination of the three-month residency is a solo art exhibit. Ness’s exhibit opens in the gallery gift shop Saturday with a reception from 4 – 8 p.m., and runs through Oct. 3.