Spectrum Art Gallery celebrates 40 years of photographic excellence with annual print auction

There are always some amazing finds at Spectrum Art Gallery’s annual print auction, and this year’s highlight is a biggie:

You can bid on a 50th Anniversary Portfolio by legendary photographer Edward Weston.


Pictured above: Edward Weston’s ‘Cabbage Leaf, 1931. Photo: Spectrum Art Gallery

The item is a complete portfolio of all 12 gelatin silver prints, from an edition of 100, printed by Brett Weston under Edward Weston’s supervision, each mounted and dated with the photographer’s initials in pencil on the mount.

The Spectrum print auction, which continues in person and online through July 15, celebrates the gallery’s 40th year and is a traditional fundraiser for the photographic art gallery. There are many more items featured. I checked in with curator Jesse Merrell, who explains how the auction works and talks about some of the other prints available — including one he donated himself. It’s a striking image of Mono Lake.


Q: Talk a little about your own work in the auction. I’ve always loved Mono Lake. Is it a challenge to photograph such a well-known place?

A: Mono Lake is indeed a lovely place, from the various flora, the open sky, to the calm waters and the towering tufa formations. It is always a challenge to photograph a well-known location and iconic landmarks because you are competing with hundreds, if not thousands, of photographers to capture “the best shot.” However, I have always believed that I may never get the best shot, but I will get MY shot! And that’s what it’s about for me. Just making it my own.

The image I captured at Mono Lake was an interesting experience. Navigating through the basin while the sun was already setting, I was looking for a great spot to photograph. The tufa forms are so spectacular, that you just want to stop and try to capture them in their best light.

Spectrum Art Gallery

Clockwise from top left: Ansel Adams on a coffee can; Jesse Merrell’s view of Mono Lake; Jeffrey D. Nicholas’ ‘Telescope Lake’; Franka Gabler’s ‘Oaks in Storm, Yosemite’; Merrell in photographer mode.

By the time I found the spot I photographed, I noticed there were about 20 other photographers nearby trying to capture that tufa group with the clouds rushing by and the light fading fast. The winds were intense that day, and several tripods were blown over! (Reminder to always bring sandbags to a shoot to weigh down your equipment for a steady shot). I captured this backlit image of the tufa cluster and represented it as a digital Van Dyke Brown Print, a process that I have grown fond of in recent years. While this print was done digitally, nowadays I create my Van Dyke Brown prints in the traditional, wet chemical method – completely handmade, and each one-of-a-kind.

Q: Tell us more about the Weston portfolio available at the auction.

A: Each print is stamped in ink with the print number on the reverse of the mount; with colophon, introduction by Edward Weston, a plate list, contained in folio, white cloth with flaps and black letterpress title, bound by Perry G. Davis, San Francisco, typography by the Grabhorn Press.

The portfolio consists of these plates: Cabbage Leaf, 1931, Eel River, 1937, David H. McAlpin, New York, 1941, Eroded Rock, Point Lobos, 1930, Nude, 1936, Wall Scrawls, Hornitos, 1940, Guadalupe, Mexico, 1925, Church Door, Hornitos, 1940, North Dome, Point Lobos, 1946, William Edmondson, sculptor, Nashville, 1941, “Willie,” New Orleans, 1941, and Dunes, Oceano, 1936, photos each on artist mounted 16″ x 13.75″.

All prints are in excellent condition overall. Two have been framed to museum standard for viewing in this exhibition. The included original portfolio case 16.5″ x 14″ x .75″ has warpage; so, all prints not on display have been stored in a separate, 100% archival portfolio box. This entire portfolio has been authenticated and appraised by Christian/Reilly registered by The Appraisers Association of America, Inc.

Q: What other works are available in the auction?

A: While we have works from many local and regional artists, we also have some highly collectible works from artists of national and world renown.

The first of these is a Hills Brothers Coffee Can that has a photochemical reproduction of Ansel Adams’ “Winter Morning, Yosemite Valley, California.” Adams made the image for this around 1959 with an 8×10 view camera. These are a highly collectible item, and we have been fortunate to have seen a couple of these come through our gallery.

Another work we have is “Feathers, CA 2006” by Merg Ross. Merg is by all accounts a master photographer, able to use his keen perception and technical skills to bring elegant life to his abstract photographic vision. His work has been shown in many forums, including the George Eastman House, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and Princeton University Art Museum.

Q: For those who don’t know about the Spectrum Art Gallery auction, can you explain what a big deal it is?

A: Since its beginning 40 years ago, Spectrum Art Gallery has been dedicated to providing the greater Fresno area, as well as the Central Valley, with a unique environment for the photographic arts, and serving as a center for education and community enrichment. Operating as a non-profit organization, we offer our members and our community continuous exhibitions of a wide variety of photography. Additionally, Spectrum maintains a relationship with artists of all disciplines and supports activities that are community based.

Spectrum Art Gallery continues its mission to promote photography as a fine art, and increasing its offering of workshops, lectures, and outreach takes time and resources. We are a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, and rely on our community and members to support our activities. Our annual print auction provides a significant source of support for our gallery, and we are grateful for the generous support of our donors and community participants who joins us every year to bid on collectible photographic artworks.

Q: How does the bidding process work? You can see the works online or in person, correct?

A: Spectrum Art Gallery is pleased to present over 75 works of fine art in its 40th Anniversary Auction. The photographs are from 60 different photographers, many of them of national and international renown. The art presented in our online auction will be available for viewing at Spectrum Art Gallery from June 3 through July 15, 2021. The silent auction, itself, will be open for bidding from June 3 through July 15, 2021. The auction items may be viewed now on our silent auction website.

The bidding process is simple and intuitive. Once you register for your account in accelevents, you are able to see the current bid on your selected items. From there, you are able to place your bid. Should you be outbid, the system will notify you. There are options for you to “favorite” the works you want to follow, and you can sort by favorited works, or scroll through the catalog in its entirety. There are plenty of works featured, and certainly something that appeals to anyone. I encourage everyone to take a peek at these fine works and participate in this fun event. Not only do you have a chance to purchase fantastic and collectible works at a great price, but you are supporting an amazing organization that has been serving the Central Valley for over 40 years, adding to the arts and culture of our community.

The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.

Q: How does Spectrum Art Gallery contribute to Fresno’s arts scene?

Fresno has a terrific art scene filled with works from many, many talented and skilled individual artists from two-dimensional and three-dimensional mediums including drawing and painting, sculpture, crafts, and mixed media. However, Spectrum fills an important gap due to our “focus” being an all-photographic gallery. We advance photography, in all its forms from traditional wet-chemical gelatin silver processes, to the alternative and lomographic forms, and even to the experimental and modern media. Our organization truly represents a wide “spectrum” of photographic artists and mediums.

Our grassroots, all-volunteer cooperative gallery also serves as a forum space, where photography can be discussed and explored. We offer educational opportunities, from critiques, talks, lectures and demonstrations, field trips, to workshops and courses where the public can be exposed to and learn more about photography beyond the classroom setting.


Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thank you, Donald, for this wonderfully informative interview – even nicely illustrated. You serve the arts community so well – in ways no one ever really has. So import especially right now.


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