Nixson Borah’s photo montages at the B&W Gallery are loosely based on the subject of memory. “It’s kind of the underlying theme that connects most of the images,” said the Atascadero artist.
The topic of memory, especially as one ages, fascinates Borah. “It diminishes and at the same time gets powerfully enriched when you’re dealing with things of the past.”
Remembering a color, a shape, a shadow or a pattern spurs another image. “I just love making these connections.”
Recently a picture of a Greek chorus reminded him of the white shape of a pig in a butcher shop in Athens. He laughs at this bizarre connection, and yet the resulting photo intrigues viewers.
“People are finding it very provocative,” Borah said. “People are coming up with their own narratives, their own stories.”
A writer and an artist, Borah keeps his eyes and ears tuned: “I stand in museums sometimes and listen to people talk about the art.” He gets the impression they share ideas they wouldn’t normally talk about, as the art evokes their thoughts, memories, releasing the subconscious to some degree.
“I think of art as a catalyst for conversation between grown-ups,” he said.
Raised in San Luis Obispo, Borah attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, then was an art professor in Fullerton for 23 years.
“One of the perks of being a teacher is having time to travel,” said Borah, who still visits foreign countries. Many of the works in his current exhibit include portions of photos shot in Greece or the Far East.
Borah continued drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpting during his teaching career. In the mid-1980s, during a trip to New York, he photographed a dance troupe in the late-afternoon light in Central Park.
The dancers loved his shots. “They immediately abducted me and took me all around New York state for their performances,” Borah said.
Following that, a move to a gallery loft in Los Angeles boosted his career, and he became the photographer for the Rudy Perez Ensemble for a decade.
Dancers and figurative studies play a big role in his work, which appealed to the B&W gallery owners, Pat Bennett and Jim Vincolisi, who mostly show landscapes.
Borah also relishes taking shots of the abundant scenery in North County and drawing budding flowers, whose grace reminds him of dancers.
He often incorporates his drawings or paintings into the photo montages.
“The computer is such a wonderful tool for doing this,” he said.
Molding images with reality, snatches of poetry and visual arts is all part of the human experience, Borah said.
The artist sees connections in forms and patterns, such as the rain in a window with an oak in the background reminding him of snow falling from his car.
“Very often it’s a rhythm of shapes that kind of glues things together for me,” he said.
Recent discussions about the validity of photographs during this electronic technological age amuse him.
“Photography has never been about telling the truth,” he said. “It’s always been interpretive.”