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Colors, textures set photographer Tierney Gearon alight

The Santa Monica artist, on exhibit at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, travels the world and calls her personal style 'bohemian elegant.'

February 22, 2009|Monica Corcoran

In her first West Coast show, "Explosure," photographer Tierney Gearon is a loving matchmaker of moments. But bringing together compatible images would make for a dull marriage, so she conjoins the unlikeliest of pairs through double exposure. Little girls dancing are superimposed on a background of brown bears from a museum diorama. A woman holds a white peacock, the field where she stands dissolving into the ripples of a beach. Imagine a collision of landscapes and cultures that develops into a warm embrace.

"These pictures are a celebration of a world that is crashing and blossoming at the same time," says Gearon, whose chic opening dinner party last week at Ace Gallery was considered the "it" art party of Oscar week by default. (Art dealer Larry Gagosian didn't host his annual high-profile art exhibition and supper at Mr. Chow this year.) Gearon's previous work debuted in 2001 at the Saatchi Gallery in London, and a 2006 documentary, "The Mother Project," sprang from an exhibition that explores her mom's mental illness. Gearon lives with her four children in a rambling Spanish-style house in Santa Monica and often photographs her family in her own backyard.

You were once a model. Did that inspire you to take pictures?

Ha. Everyone focuses on the fact that I modeled for, like, one minute. I was a classical ballet dancer for much longer. But when I did model, I was a busybody, and I did everything on a shoot. I would help style or help the photographer. I learned a lot.

Are clothes important in your pictures?

Yes. I have an incredible eye for color. Some of my photos look like I styled them, but I don't do that. What I do is free-style directing. I'll throw something like a piece of fabric or a pig mask down and see if someone takes it. I might put a pair of shoes down on the floor and maybe my daughter steps into them.

Describe your own personal style:

It's all my own and I call it bohemian elegant. I used to wear the same color all the time -- maybe blue or pink or white. I always buy fabrics when I travel to India or Africa or Japan, and then I ask someone to make me clothes. I have the same button-down shirtwaist dress in 20 different fabrics, from wool to cotton to silk. I like a uniform. For designers, I like Liza Bruce and Pamela Barish. I'm wearing seven bracelets of gold and raw stones by Pippa Small right now. All of my jewelry is by her.

What type of camera do you favor?

I like a Mamiya 67 because it's a very quiet camera. It has a very large format and the quality is good. It doesn't take a thousand pictures at once. You have one shot per frame, so it had better be good. I use C type film. I don't do any digital printing, and I don't do any retouching.

You must carry a big purse.

I am known as a bag lady. I don't carry a camera bag though. I have some L.L. Bean duffel bags and big Prada bags that I like. I have a small Hermes Kelly bag that I keep in a bigger Kelly bag, and I put that in another bag. I'm very into Hermes bags because they have no labels and they last forever.

Name an extraordinary place to shoot in L.A., other than your backyard.

I go to Coral Canyon in Malibu a lot, and most people don't even know that it exists. It's always an adventure when I take people there. I like to shoot there in the middle of the day. I like downtown and Los Feliz too. L.A. is limitless when it comes to locations. Anyone who says that L.A. has nothing to offer for creative people is downright lazy.

"Explosure" runs through April at the Ace Gallery Beverly Hills, 9430 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 858-9090.


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