Life is But a Dream for Valley Artist by Nate Lipka

20111103-College-Times-Nate-Lipka Corinne Geertsen
The old collides with the new. The everyday is punched up by elements of fantasy, mystery and whimsy. It’s familiar, but definitely strange.

These are as much descriptions of Valley artist Corinne Geertsen’s newest exhibition “Parlor Games,” opening this Friday and on display at After Hours Gallery through the end of November, as they are of Artlink’s First Friday art walk, itself.

“I definitely think the old colliding with the new is part of the Phoenix arts scene,” Geertsen said in an email interview. “It’s influenced the style and nature of my work, which is essentially combining the old with the new in a quirky way.”

Geertsen’s works are a unique mix of history and new media, a combination that sprouted rather innocuously five years ago when she started learning the ropes of Photoshop with the intention of restoring a collection of hundreds of family photos from the 19th and early 20th centuries. She soon began seeing the photos as “rich resources” for her artistic vision and computer rendering as a tool to make her sense of mischievous storytelling come to life.

Now, her pieces in Parlor Games” play like a strange dream, the stern faces and antiquated dress of her ancestors plopped into exotic settings with lions, rhinos and giraffes with the click of a mouse.

“Working digitally fits with the way my mind works,” Geertsen said. “I am attracted to digital art because there are no limits. You are literally making a picture from nothing.”

At times, her dreams even help craft the scenes. “I often dream that I am working on current pieces. Many times I wake up having developed a picture further in a dream and am able to take that insight to the picture I’m working on,” Geertsen said.

The artist’s many influences guide her unique aesthetic. Geertsen’s father was a psychologist who she said discussed his work at the dinner table. She had several research grants as a college student to study genetic mapping for cancer research. She’s  an animal lover who said at 7, she once dragged a horse home to her backyard “just in case he was lost.”

All these experiences, formal artistic training and what seems to be an active imagination converge on her ancestral photos and shots from her person archive to form quite a scene in every piece.

“These characters are placed in situations, plights and psychological predicaments,” Geertsen said. “The pictures are quirky visual narratives that pull a lot of subconscious strings.”Still, despite the fleeting nature of dreams and the transitive digital medium in which the artist works, the works in “Parlor Games” are very real.

“The software I use is very powerful and is what is necessary to pull pictures together seamlessly and beautifully,” she said. “The  bridge between a picture only existing on the computer screen and being hung on a wall is printing.”

These works are printed with archival ink on archival paper. In the show they’ll be framed in antique frames matched to the aesthetic of each piece.
Geertsen said she’s thrilled when folks finally get a chance to hold her work in their hands, hang it on their walls.

The artist has shown many times before- at Mesa Arts Center, Tempe Arts Center, The Cathedral Center for the Arts, The Burton Barr Central Library, Mesa Community College, ASU and, now, After Hours Gallery-but she says she still gets a thrill from the Phoenix arts scene.

I find it stimulating,” Geertsen said. “I come away from art events energized by the crowds of people enjoying art and intrigued by the work itself.” (November 3, 2011 College Times)