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I know you from the watermelon you're holding.

Sandra Louise Dyas’ “my eyes are not shut”, Anderson Gallery at Drake University

September 7 - October 12, 2012

Still from Kickstarter video. Watch here.

Review by Rachel

The first time I became acquainted with Sandra Dyas and her photography, she was holding a watermelon in a kickstarter video. It was still attached to the vine. This act of holding the growing gourd while talking about her love of taking pictures developed a strong visual relationship between person and object. Then, I saw her installation of photos in the Anderson Gallery at Drake, and I saw over and over again: relationships being built between person and object.

Detail of “Don, owner of the Modern Barber Shop in Burlington, Iowa”

Dyas imagery, those visual relationships, have stayed with me. I saw the show twice. I think a few pieces could have been edited out. The excess distracted me from the over-arching narrative into which I was being lead. Starting along the immediate right wall when you walk in, Dya’s characters are introduced individually, each with a name and location in the title. Collectively, they become a community with a culture determined by the formal decisions of composition and color.

Top: “Aunt LaVonna in Her Living Room, Bellevue, Iowa” Bottom: Installation shot during the opening.

It felt obvious to me that these photos are a fiction. Each person is understood by the sum of their surrounding parts. Dyas's highlights what is romantic and nostalgic about the Midwest: farms, babies, the open road, old barber shops, talking corn fields…. There is humor and an exaggeration of truth. Her colors are so rich, you question if real life could ever be that vibrant.

Top left, “Jamie Ballerina with Red Tomatoes, Iowa City, Iowa” Top Right, “Basketball Hoop, near Iowa City, Iowa” , Bottom: “Blue Birds”

And then Dyas starts matching bodies to landscape in pairs of photos. A pair of tattooed breasts compared to the symmetry of a pair of trees, and then this strange girl in a blue leotard is standing on one leg like this old basketball hoop. The comparisons are strong.

Barbara Ann in Her Tomato Patch, DeWitt, Iowa

The show’s title is “My eyes are not shut”. Take a gander before it closes October 12.