Ginger Bruner: The Daily Frame

Written by Jon Winet on the occasion of the artist’s spring|summer 2013 portfolio exhibition at the College of Southern Nevada Cheyenne Campus Artspace Gallery.

Ginger Bruner: The Daily Frame.

IF Ginger Bruner hadn’t existed, Las Vegas would have invented her.

An entrepreneur marketing a “Honk If You Know Ginger” bumper sticker could cash in on such an item–but the City would have to pass a noise abatement ordnance banning them.

To the local hipsters, artists, musicians, burlesque dancers, arts administrators, journalists, storytellers and dreamers, third-generation Nevadan Ginger Bruner is an ever-evolving creative constant, a source of projects and ideas, a reassurance and affirmation of the city’s and its locals’ vitality.

Do a search for “cultural animator.” You should rightly find a stippled drawing of Ginger alongside a definition of the term.

When she’s not playing the tuba in a number of local bands on any night of the week, or thumping a bass at a progressive church on Sunday mornings, or helping people with their grants, gardens and cooking projects to name a few, Ginger is busy photographing her beloved Radiant City.

csn_ginger_bruner_flier_front

Ginger’s spring-summer 2013 College of Southern Nevada Show presents a brilliant, generous array of her photographs culled from the thousands she creates each year. The Title of the show, “The Daily Frame,” references her diaristic practice.

As editor and director of “Our Las Vegas,”* a project funded by the Las Vegas Arts Commission, I am proud to work on with Ginger. I have the pleasure of seeing the scores of images Ginger gathers in her daily life. This rare privilege yields a number of insights.

Ginger loves Las Vegas in the way one hopes Las Vegas loves to be loved. Her vision can both get right to the City’s shiny surfaces – and deeper to its complex, existential, emotional, embrace-the-contradictions core. Forty millions or so visitors come to the City each year, and find the photo ops the architect and designer have arranged for them. Ginger appreciates and captures these photographic treasures of the low-lying fruit variety , but she also mines the images to find beauty that are based in the deeper understanding of a local. Rather than point her camera at Las Vegas, she gathers images from within it, not as an exercise in exotica, but rather as an intimate form of visual note-taking. The Stratosphere looming above neighborhoods as a reminder of the City’s gaming | entertainment economic engine. Celebratory images of the people she admires, captured at decisive moments. Hard luck hard times scenes just at the periphery of public view. Memorable meals. Memorable cocktails. Tchotchkes at the World’s Largest Gift Shop. The World’s Largest Gift Shop. Rich details that bring a deeper understanding of this mythical, real place we claim as ours. Most locals go about their lives with only the rarest of visits to the Strip. For them and for those who split their time between glitzy, 24/7 workplaces and home lives and neighborhoods comparable to those in countless towns and suburbs across America, Ginger pays attention and pays witness to the extraordinary social landscape.

Then there are those skies. Skies Ginger notices above the formidable Casino signs. She smartly looks up and above the City, tilting her camera upward to reveal an atmospheric show worthy of a hefty cover charge and two-drink minimum.

Las Vegas is a visual feast for the eyes. Ginger adds her own Fauve palette. Referred to by a local at a recent First Friday as an “iPhone Photographer,” Ginger is not shy about using the tools afforded by Instagram, Hipstatmatic and other image-processing apps. In her hands the tools bring the quotidian surreal condition of Las Vegas to a new level – the colors in her photographs are even brighter, the social ruptures more noticeable, the Tikiness of Tiki bars more Polynesian. In some instances and images, the approach brings about a shift in the images from the photographic to the graphic – bringing to mind traditional printmaking as much as late 20th century photography. This operation makes us all the more aware of the creative act of image-making that Ginger engages in so devotedly – both at the moment of recording and in post production.
As strong as the images are, they are but documentary traces of Ginger’s daily practice, visual souvenirs of places, relationships, events and ideas.

• • •

ginger_snow_globes_w_homeTo find Las Vegas in a snow globe is poignant and consistent with the dream quality of the place, a place where mercury rising above 100 is as common as wintery weather in Canada.

The globe conjures up childhood wonder, and at least for some of us, the haunting image of Charles Foster Kane and the sound of his dying utterance, a remembrance of things past and lost, “Rosebud.” [2]

The reference makes Ginger’s work all the more engaging. Ginger Bruner has fiercely retained her love of Las Vegas and a sense of wonder, as she captures the evolving city well known for dismissing – make that imploding – its history. We are all fortunate to share her visual observations.

Jon Winet
Iowa City, Iowa | Pasadena, California. | Las Vegas, Nevada | Berkeley, California.
May | June 2013

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1. Just in case you were wondering: “What is Cultural Animation?” posted by Iwona Kurz – www.culturalanimation.com/2008/07/02/what-is-cultural-animation/; and “Cultural Animation ‘Just plain folks’ building culture — rather than just consuming it,” by Peter Reynolds – www.context.org/iclib/ic05/reynolds/.

2.  Quartet of “Citizen Kane” images orginally from EW.com website.

 

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