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story.lead_photo.caption David Rackley of Russellville displays 35 photographs in a new exhibit at the River Valley Arts Center. The exhibit combines work from two of his ongoing projects. - Photo by William Harvey

Russellville artist David Rackley has a new exhibit at the River Valley Arts Center. The exhibit features 35 photographs and will remain on display through Oct. 27.

Rackley, who was born in Russellville but grew up in Alaska, said the work in this exhibit is the product of two ongoing projects.

“One, which I have tentatively titled The Delta and Beyond, started with an attempt to capture my impressions of the Mississippi Delta region from the Helena area to New Orleans,” Rackley said. “But soon I found myself also immersed in the low country and barrier islands of South Carolina.

“I am not a photojournalist or nature photographer and have made no attempt to document the lives of the people or of their natural environment. These images instead represent my interpretation, my emotional response to what was before me. At times, I have staged figures in the composition to enhance the emotional impact of the narrative.”

Rackley titled the second part of his exhibit The Other Side.

“It’s a little harder to explain,” he said, laughing. “Let’s just say that I have always been drawn to people on the fringe. So I have taken this theater-carnival-circus world, both imaginary and real, and placed these people in it, … and they seem to be quite comfortable there.”

Rackley holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology from Arizona State

University and a master’s degree in education from the University of South Carolina. He has traveled extensively, photographing in Mexico, Guatemala, South America, Southeast Asia and Europe.

“I remember when I first took a serious interest in photography,” Rackley said. “It was on a road trip from Alaska to Arizona to enter my freshman year of college. I had stopped in Los Angeles, mainly because I was totally bewildered, and happened upon a small nondescript gallery showing some works by Minor White. These were small prints, 4 by 5 and 8 by 10 as I remember, but I can still recall the whites of the tombstones and crypts against the dark sky in his cemetery photographs. I was seriously hooked.

“I took a photography class in college, then set out to see if I could develop anything like the clarity and intensity of vision of the photographers that I so much admired, such as White, Edward and Bret Weston and Paul Strand,” Rackley said.

Rackley said that for many years, he was a classic black-and-white photographer.

“I still do some of my work in that medium, but much of what I do today is a kind of mixed media, often incorporating a great deal of painting with the photography,” he said. “The black-and-white photograph, however, with an emphasis on form and composition, remains at the heart of my work. I have never completely left my classic black-and-white roots.”

Rackley uses medium- and large-format cameras, usually a 4-by-5-view camera.

“I shoot black-and-white film and print on fiber-based paper in a darkroom,” he said. “I really don’t get along well with computers, so I do no digital work at all.

“When the print is dry, I paint it, usually with oils, but sometimes with colored pencils or even watercolors. Although hand-tinting photographs has been around for a long time, I have avoided the soft pastel look of the past for a more solid and painterly look with a more saturated palette.”

Following the close of his show in Russellville, Rackley will have five pieces of his work on display Nov. 29 through Dec. 24 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in Little Rock throughout the run of the next play, Gifts of the Magi. He will also participate in the annual holiday show and sale at Galley 26 in

Little Rock on Nov. 11 through Jan. 13.

For more information on Rackley’s exhibit at the River Valley Arts Center, call (479) 968-2452 or visit The River Valley Arts Center, 1001 E. B St. in Russellville, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday. There is no admission charge.


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