San Franciscan Carol Inez Charney, 54, moved west from New York years ago to study painting at UC Santa Cruz. "I was never a very good painter," she said in conversation in her show at Slate in Oakland. "I love painting, but you need to pick your battles."
Since getting a master's in photography from San Jose State, Charney has won recognition with pictures such as those on view. They are composites: views of architecture printed first, then shot through a carefully positioned, water-streaked glass panel.
Q: Are these mounted pictures cropped?
A: No, I crop in camera. ... I shoot digitally for my base images, when I have to set up on the street. ... It's much easier that way to be inconspicuous. Then I come back later and go crazy with a Hasselblad, but go very slowly and meticulously, to construct another, recontextualized, moment. ... I find the imagery that strikes me as interesting, and then I come back and create my own palette. That's when I kind of start thinking like a painter again.
Q: Do you single out buildings as settings?
A: Yes, I find buildings that I think are unusual for some specific reason. For example, there's a building in Culver City that's a wedge. It looks like it should fall over. There's another that's a titanium beehive that I thought was going to be seven stories high - it turned out to be 1 1/2 stories.
Q: And do you chill the glass to produce crystallized ice?
A: No, I simulate it. It's not temperature-dependent.
Q: But they are evocative of winter. Why?
A: There's something contemplative about that kind of distortion of landscape created by weather. ... I'm looking at something, but thinking about something else, yet still looking - there's a sort of perceptual dialogue that doesn't happen when you're looking atDorothea Lange's migrant mother and child.
Q: Do you ever rotate finished works?
A: I'm trying to create not only visual diversity, but diversity in my process ... so sometimes I do turn the glass, but I don't ever rotate pictures after they're made.
If you go
Carol Inez Charney: New Work: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and by appointment. Through Nov. 23. Slate Contemporary, 473 25th St., Oakland. (510) 625-4085. www.slatecontemporary.com.