33_57300_2Reflection #33, above, and #26, below, by Rande Johnson.

Who is Rande Johnson, and is he an artist?


The McKay Gallery, which is showing his photos in an exhibition that begins tonight, says that Johnson is a tradesman; that would explain the battered red van with Johnson’s name spelled out in awkwardly applied stick-on letters that we saw parked on Monmouth Street earlier this week.

But gallery owners Liz & Bob McKay go farther, asking in a press release whether Johnson is even a photographer, given that he had to borrow a camera to do the work at hand.

Well, we know the answer, or what the McKays think the answer is. Their gallery specializes in photo art, and they’re not only giving Johnson his first-ever show: they’re showing works that Johnson has apparently never shown to anyone, even his friends.

The McKays call Johnson’s prints “the products of some divine inspiration and a borrowed camera.” Here’s what Johnson himself says about where they come from:


Nature is composed of patterns. Those that exist and those that are being created. Science has devised theories and mathematical formulas for the process nature uses to generate patterns. Using these ideas, I thought that if I could direct light into a random state, it would reveal some of these designs. I built three- dimensional structures that continued to build up layers of reflected light out of the three primary colors.

I experiment with different irregularities in these systems until I find one that can dramatically change the imagery. I then photograph areas in this structure where my eye is drawn to its sophistication and beauty, areas of order within chaos. All patterns are right or left-handed. When the two are combined, the symmetry it creates is even more elegant. I used this idea, again and again, to move my photographs to higher and higher levels of complexity.

Now, our general rule about art here at redbankgreen is, “shut up and play.” Listening to a singer explain her songs, or a painter explain her paintings, is usually the fastest route to a buzzkill. Not that it’s never entertaining, or enlightening in terms of process (as in this case, certainly). Just show us the pictures, unspool the reel let the art do the talking.

But we’ve got to admit that what little we’ve heard about Johnson’s backstory intrigues us. And knowing a little about what he’s after, and how he tries to get it, does put the pictures we’ve seen so far in a perspective that adds to our appreciation of them. Which may be cheating, but what the hell.

As for whether or not Johnson’s a photographer, well, only photographers are likely to care. Clearly the guy’s an artist; he’d be one even if his images never saw the light of day.

Fortunately for us, Johnson’s junky truck made it to Red Bank. Let’s just hope he hasn’t given that camera back to whomever he borrowed it from.

McKay Gallery is upstairs at 12 Monmouth. An open reception will be held tonight from 7 to 10p, and Johnson will be present. The show, titled ‘Ethereal Reflections,’ runs through June 19.

Email this story