John Arsenault makes art from Instagram in "For You" at Kittredge Gallery, UPS

Staff writerMarch 29, 2014 

John Arsenault, "For You: 1:22 p.m."


Instagram has now become fine art - that is, if you call highly composed, highly Photoshopped art photographs Instagram. Because what's currently up in the small gallery at the University of Puget Sound's Kittredge Gallery is not what normally constitutes the visual language of Instagram, with its narcissistic, selfie-driven style and swift, shoot-it-quick quality. No, what Los Angeles artist John Arsenault offers in the 13 square C-prints of roses that make up "For You" is a painterly, poetic vision of a flower that is to Instagram what haiku is to Twitter.

Because Arsenault dives deep. Visually and metaphorically he explores the depth of each rose, closing into its anatomy, refining the ripped edges and draped structure with both his original composition and later Photoshopping (he doesn't use the app's own software) before having them professionally printed. It's as if Annie Proulx rewrote your Facebook posts and had them letterpressed into a handmade book. The detail is astonishingly beautiful, but it's nothing to do with social media.

Arsenault also explores the idea of a rose in rather Blakean terms. As in the famous poem he unveils a "sick" side of the flowers, dirtying up their velvety pink petals and pushing his lens into their deepest, shadowed cavities. The texture he achieves, especially with flowers across the same palette, is marvelous, like a rose made of waxed damask. Curator Rock Hushka has sensitively grouped the works to both dialogue and contrast, color-wise.

John Arsenault' "For You" is on view 10am-5pm Monday-Friday, noon-5pm Saturday through April 12. Free. Kittredge Gallery, UPS, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. 253-879-3701,

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568

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