There is a slightly surreal and haunting quality to many of the black-and-white and color photos of Cody Lee Dopps in his “Of Our Land” show at the state Capitol.
“I would get an overwhelming sense … of the vastness of the Great Plains every time I would come across one of the thousands of empty and dilapidated homes,” said Dopps, who moved to rural Oklahoma in 2005.
“I have a mental stockpile of locations that might make future photographs,” Dopps added. “So when the time is right, the sun is in the right place, and the clouds are pretty, I just hope I have my camera with me.”
Particularly evocative are the black-and-white photos from the Edmond artist's “Dead Houses” series, such as the overgrown, derelict structure at the end of a road depicted in his “Dead House 8.” Bright, patchy sunlight interacts well with a threatening sky, in his horizontal photo of the worn, weathered and windowless “Dead House 3,” another intriguing work from the series.
Gauzy clouds seem to echo the flaking paint of the once pristine white facade, broken only by a barred door and two windows, in the old, no longer used “Covington Jail,” in a powerful black-and-white photo.
Even more dreamlike are his pictures of a castle-like rock church on a rugged ridge in “St. Malo,” and of a strangely fantastic-looking structure straddling the “Overholser Dam.” A dramatic angle adds to the impact of a photo, looking upward from the base of the “Chase Building,” in one of the pictures of new rather than old structures, Dopps said he sometimes does.
An orangish-brown sepia toning technique supplies just the right note of color to his photo of the boarded up “Cherokee School House,” its roof partly stripped away, in another striking composition.
In his color photo of “China Berries in the Sun,” brilliant rays breaking through scattered clouds give a nearly magical aura to a group of trees that seem to stand apart from the fields surrounding them.
In two other fine color photos, golden foliage is nicely balanced by the quiet, empty waters of “Keystone Lake,” and the dark silhouettes of “Sunflowers at Sunset” stand out dramatically.
Even more memorable and mysterious is his color photo of a “Cherokee Hedge Row” that suggests the corner of some strange miniature forest, labyrinth or maze for the viewer to discover.
Sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Dopps show of photographs is highly recommended during its run through Sept. 2 in the capitol's first floor North Gallery.
— John Brandenburg