Most days, Eric Demattos watches the sky to decide when to go to work.
With his camera and tripod loaded in the car, Demattos heads out when the weather hints at something good. Much of his photographic work is done in the hour after sunrise or hour before sunset at abandoned structures he discovers while driving or by suggestion of a friend.
Demattos currently has two three-dimensional pieces on display at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History in an exhibit featuring work by regional art and design faculty. He shares this about his photographic process and work:
Lives in: Clarkston
Works at: Columbia Basin College, Pasco as adjunct faculty teaching photography and art
Education: Bachelor of Art, La Sierra University; Master of Fine Arts, University of Idaho
Photography website: www.facebook.com/circleofravens/
Places he’s called home: Several, mostly Texas, upstate New York and California
On his photographic subjects: I love to photograph some of the beautiful, yet often forgotten places that are all around us in this area, including old farmhouses and structures. A few of these places have been like a thread that, once I started pulling on it, a fascinating story came out that is still unwinding.
On a current location focus: The most recent of these is the Collins house, just above the Lewiston grade outside of Uniontown. Once I started photographing this place, I realized it was the first home in Whitman County and has a long lineage of pioneers and innovators that shaped the development of the valley — yet the house lies abandoned. I’m still trying to uncover the mystery of why.
On his start in photography: I was getting my undergraduate degree at La Sierra University, in Riverside, Calif., as a pre-med student when I took a photography class. It was black-and-white photography, and we had to develop our pictures in the dark room. I fell in love with the process and the magic that happened when you dipped this white piece of paper in a chemical bath and a picture just appeared. I switched to an art major.
On the image transfer process in some of his pieces, including those on exhibit: During my time at UI, I started experimenting with image transfer, the process of taking a black and white image, glueing it face down on a wood surface, then rubbing off the paper so that just the black toner from the print transferred over. For the pieces in the show, I added color by painting the background then transferring a black-and-white image over the top. The freestanding piece is finished with wax, or encaustic — the fancy term that makes it seem much cooler.
On artistic ideas and influence: If there is one idea that I hold dearest, and that informs and influences me the most, it is the “wabi-sabi.” These two Japanese words coin the esthetic that really drives my work. The best definition for wabi-sabi that I have heard is “accidental beauty,” or “beauty burnished by age.” This is what I find in the old forgotten homes. There is something beautiful and mysterious there, but there is no overt intention of creating beauty, it just happens but is often overlooked. I think my job as an artist is to notice it myself and then share what I have noticed so others can see this unpretentious beauty.
On exhibiting photos in 3-D: Photography flattens the world for us, which changes how we interact with it — we can just stand in one spot and see it all. Part of my experience in photographing these forgotten places is that sense of discovery, like when you walk around the corner and find a wonderful porch facing a sunrise with a chair still there as if someone was just sitting in it. Making some of my images 3-D is trying to share that experience with the viewer, the experience of walking around the piece and discovering more, or at least shifting their perspective to see the other side where a window might be hidden.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Regional Art and Design Faculty Exhibit
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, now through March 17
WHERE: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, 415 Main St., Lewiston