The photographic exhibition “Exhibition” focuses on psychology

LOS ANGELES — Artists often cite the Californian sunlight as inspiration for their work, but during recent wildfires, the sky has transformed and inspired photographer Michele Asselin in a different way.

Through his lens, Asselin captured a series of haunting, otherworldly images of a smoky sun that are now part of a new exhibition titled “Exposure,” currently on view at Louise Alexander/AFP Gallery.

Asselin explained that “Exposure” began with an initial series of photographs focusing on how sunlight interacts within the walls of a built environment, a house.

“I was thinking a lot about place identity and I was thinking about environmental psychology,” Asselin said. “And I started to think of home as this ‘boundary’ between the outer world and the inner self.”

Asselin said that while looking at sunlight on walls is nothing new for artists, during pandemic shutdowns it has taken on new meaning for her.

“The wall becomes the frame for this sunlight, and the sunlight, depending on the time of day, has become a living, breathing subject,” she said. “And the other thing that sunlight did was it brought ideas about the natural world, which was really important because this conversation between the built world and the natural world became more and more more important.

While Asselin was working on the Sunlight mural series, the Creek Fire and other wildfires erupted in 2020, covering large areas of Southern California in a pall of smoke and creating a powerful psychological change for the artist.

“The outside started to look like the inside,” Asselin said. “There was this thick, dense atmosphere that became almost like a domed feeling to the outside world.”

Asselin decided to combine the original mural series with the images of wildfires to form a dialogue between intimate interiors and the enormity of outdoor spaces affected by wildfires.

Asselin said the juxtaposition of the two forms of sunlight depicted in the combined series invites the viewer to consider our changing relationship with the natural world at a time when the climate crisis is an increasingly pressing issue for many.

“There is a national homelessness crisis and there is forced migration due to climate change,” Asselin said. “And so, that kind of being outside and that intense exposure to the sun had a new meaning.”

“Exposure” is Michelle Asselin’s first solo exhibition, to be seen at the Galerie Louise Alexander / AF Project space until January 21, 2022.

Tracey L. Sweeney