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Exhibit displays supernatural works

Associated Press Modified: January 28, 2011 at 3:46 am •  Published: January 28, 2011

"Phantoms, Shadows and Phenomena" will creep into Athens tonight at the Kennedy Museum of Art, which is opening new video and photo creations to the public. The pieces explore the balance between reality and illusion to the human eye.

The exhibit, organized by Kennedy Museum curator Petra Kralickova, includes work from eight artists. Their mediums range from photography to video and their hometowns span the globe from Great Britain to Brussels, Belgium.

"We're drawing on so many different artists from so many different places," said Beth Tragert, administrative associate at the Kennedy Museum. "We're drawing from all over the world and bringing the work here."

One of the featured artists is OU art professor Laura Larson. Her exhibit, "Asylum," depicts the paranormal phenomena surrounding legends of women's dormitories at the old Athens State Hospital at The Ridges.

Larson first captured the images while working as a visiting professor at OU. The idea of shooting in The Ridges was one of the main reasons she came to Athens, she said. Larson's exhibit first debuted in 2005 at the Lennon, Weinberg gallery in New York City.

In photographing the asylum, Larson used a traditional large-format view camera, which can produce clearer, blown-up negatives.

Larson said she wishes there were greater inspiration behind "Asylum," but it was mostly the accessibility of the former Athens State Hospital that led to the accidental association with her work.

"I want to say it was organic development - but it was more of a happy accident," Larson said. "I got access to the dormitories."

Larson added that she knows audiences will view her photos as either "Photoshopped" or as real images, an aspect of her work that fits in with the exhibit's theme of illusion and reality.

"These aren't images that were produced in Photoshop," Larson said. "It was important to me to produce this (image) in front of the camera."

Most of Larson's work features themes of women's studies as well as humanity's relationship with the planet and universes beyond. She said her exhibit presents a look at domestic space and how it affects the relationships of women.

While walking the halls of the hospital, she said she saw it haunted not so much by ghosts, but by history and the people who inhabited the building years ago.

"This was a space where people lived," Larson said.

Larson added that she is excited the pieces will be displayed in the space where they were created.

"I'm very happy that my students, colleagues and the Athens community will see these photographs," Larson said.

Other artists on display include Mat Collishaw, Hirsch Perlman, Adam Putnam and Dana Sherwood.

The opening reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Kennedy Museum. The exhibit will run until June 19. Hours for the gallery are Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 12-5 p.m., Thursday from 12-8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. Admission is free.