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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Marydorsey Wanless documents the beauty of aging

  • Everything alive is getting older by the second. There’s nothing any of us can do about it, but artist Marydorsey Wanless, who teaches photography at Washburn University, wanted to at least document the process.

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  • Everything alive is getting older by the second. There’s nothing any of us can do about it, but artist Marydorsey Wanless, who teaches photography at Washburn University, wanted to at least document the process.
    “Photography  has always been a method to collect evidence,” she noted. “This seems an appropriate medium for collecting evidence and documenting my aging process.”
    The result is “The Evidence of Aging,” an exhibit of her tintype photography that explores her own maturing face and body. It will be on view through March 15 in the University Gallery, Porter Hall, Pittsburg State University.
    Wanless conducted a workshop on tintype photography for students and gave a public lecture on Thursday, and will remain in Pittsburg today for a series of three free public lectures on aspects of aging.
    Originally from Columbia, Mo., she received a bachelor of science in art education with teaching certification in 1971, and a master’s of art in interior design in 1972, both from the University of Missouri.
    “My brother is the sixth generation of the family to farm the same land,” Wanless said. “I’ve been in Topeka for the past 33 years, so I must be from Kansas by now.”
    In 2009 she completed a master of fine arts in photography from Kansas State University. She teaches advanced digital photography and also classes in alternative processes such as gum bichromates and tintype photography. The works in “The Evidence of Aging” are tintypes.
    “The negatives are digital, then you put it on a plate,” Wanless said. “it’s a nice combination, a nice hybrid.”
    She frequently does workshops in the method, and said that around 20 students had signed up for the workshop at PSU.
    “The students have made digital positives, and when they leave the workshop tonight, they will have three tintypes of their choosing to take with them,” Wanless said.
    Some students will probably never work with tintypes again, but now and then  somebody will embrace the process.
    “I did a workshop in Omaha a couple of years ago, and one of those students has really taken off with it,” Wanless said.
    The works in her PSU exhibit include a large portrait of herself at age 21, composed of many small tintypes of her current image.
    “The idea is that  I’m still the same,” Wanless said. “I want to do a cartwheel, but I’m not sure I’d be able to walk again if I did. Maybe I could do it in a swimming pool.”
    Other pieces in the exhibit include “Lumbago,” which shows images of her hands on her aching back, and the “Wrinkle Free Series,” in which her hands stretch her face in an attempt to show what she might look like if she ever has a face-lift.
    Page 2 of 2 - While she contemplates the loss of physical abilities and independence that aging can bring she also finds herself saying hello to a new life.
    “As I age, I find it easier to look on the positive side,” Wanless said. “I feel liberated. Life is less complicated, and I am embracing the aging process.”
    The artist said she decided to use tintypes to document her aging process for several reasons.
    “I find it to be the perfect medium,” she said. “Its history connects early photographic portraiture. Its mirror-like surface reflects and draws in the view. Its emulsion unpredictably decomposes and decays like skin.”
    Related lectures are scheduled today, beginning at 2 p.m. with Dr. Steve Ford and Dr. Xiaolu Wu, PSU biology department faculty members, discussing the biology of aging. Discussing the psychology of aging at 3:30 p.m. will be Harry Krug, PSU professor emeritus and former art department chairman, along with Dr. Sean Lauderdale and Dr. Harriet Bachner from the psychology and counseling department.
    The discussions will conclude at 5:15 p.m. with a panel on the culture of aging. Featured will be international students Yazeed Aldhwayan and Alhei Aranda Britez with Dr. Joey Pogue of the PSU communications department.
    All the lectures, and the family art morning on Saturday, will be open free to the public.
    “Art is an interdisciplinary subject, and when students are younger they don’t necessarily known what they need to talk about in art,” said Rhona Shand, art department chairman. “Each semester we’ll be doing a featured exhibit to serve as a springboard to create dialogue.”
    She said that the  concept evolved from the “Collective Fusion” exhibit held in March 2011 which featured work from PSU faculty outside the art department.
    “We had the music people in, we had people talking about Russ Hall because the renovation project there was just completed,” Shand said. “There were so many people there that evening enjoying so many things.”
    Wanless said she was looking forward to attending the lectures.
    “I think this is great,” she said. “It might give me some new things to think about.”
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