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See America Naked

Gordon Stettinius' photography strips our culture down to its mystical underwear.

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Gordon Stettinius is a consummate photographer and chronic road-tripper. His exhibit at 1708 Gallery, "Naked Pilgrim," draws from his "Miss Americana" portfolio (which he's considering turning into a book) and reflects his interest in America's pop culture, religiosity, roadside events and myriad characters.

Like faithful pilgrims, we follow that lens on a wild road-trip across the nation, trusting anew that cameras do not lie. We strip ourselves of skepticism and greet America naked, ready to believe that in this great country of ours, one might encounter a human-headed snake, Jesus bearing his cross or plastic reindeer with a capacity for sentiment.

Viewed more critically, Stettinius' images ask what lies at the edges of, or just outside, mainstream American culture. Further, they spark recognition of commonalities between that which seems strange, fake or paradoxical and that which society presents as genuine and logical.

With a keen eye for composition, Stettinius presents a tepee in the landscape of a drugstore parking lot, frozen in sepia tones like some vestige of ancient culture. In another image, a mannequin choir, with wigs askew and Mickey Mouse hands awkwardly splayed, appears beneath a heavenly light, recalling baroque evocations of God's glory. Also included are some mixed-media surprises created for the exhibit.

With equal parts scrutiny and fascination, Stettinius focuses on manifestations of mysticism, patriotism, kitsch and human emotion. "Naked Pilgrim" includes images that translate paradox into poetry, incongruity into harmony. Through Stettinius' lens, irony appears enticingly sexy. S

"Naked Pilgrim" runs through April 28 at 1708 Gallery. 643-1708.

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