Professor Jim Jipson shines at his opening showcase

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Jim Jipson says his new solo exhibition, “My Endless Quest for the Chthonic,” is about discovery and digging his way through the darkness.
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Jim Jipson had the opening ceremony for his exhibition, “My Endless Quest for the Chthonic,” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28, in The Art Gallery in the University of West Florida Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

Jipson is a professor in the Department of Art at UWF, teaching photography and art history courses. His showcase is part of his Rites of Passage process to become a full-time art professor at the university.

Jipson, a Detroit native, learned how to draw from his father and grandfather, both of whom drew models of cars for companies such as Ford. Jipson got his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and his master’s from Michigan State University in East Lansing in drawing and printmaking. Jipson took on photography as a side job about 20 years ago and hasn’t looked back.

The artwork in this particular showcase features digital photographs taken with a device Jipson invented himself.

“I invented a projector that you can actually put three-dimensional objects inside the projector and it projects them out onto a screen,” he said.

Jipson said he sets up his camera on a tripod and photographs the objects through the screen on the projector. He said he also has fans attached to the projector so the objects are constantly moving.

“There’s a discovery element to it that regular photography doesn’t give me, so I like that,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it because I don’t know exactly what I’ve taken a photograph of.”

Jipson said the objects in the pictures are more-or-less everyday items.

“Most of the objects are objects I find,” he said. “They are discarded objects that we don’t pay any attention to.”

Jipson said he wanted to use these items to make a point that even the simplest idea can be made beautiful.

“If they can enjoy a discarded leaf, twig and berry, then they can really enjoy the rest of the world,” Jipson said. “We have a tendency to only look for the Maserati, and we don’t care about the Volkswagen.”

Jipson also answered the question of what “Chthonic” is. He said the term came from a critic reviewing one of his pieces that was featured in a show at the Florida Museum of Art.

“I didn’t know what it meant, so I literally had to turn on my computer and look and see what it was,” Jipson said. He said the technical definition is from literature wherein the Greeks and Romans explore the underworld, and he said he liked that idea because his artwork is about discovery and digging his way through the darkness.

“The whole thing is trying to get other people to enjoy and discover things and for me to enjoy and discover things,” he said.

Nick Croghan, the director of The Art Gallery, said he thought Jipson’s pieces of artwork were exploring the contrast of light and dark.

“They remind me a lot of what it would be like to be inside of a camera,” Croghan said.

Croghan also said he believes it is important for a professor of the university to have his work showcased.

“Just as a writer is tasked with making sure to be published, an instructor of art is always tasked with continually producing and showing their work,” Croghan said.

Junior art major Wolfy Howell, who said she had taken a class taught by Jipson, said she enjoyed the artwork.

“It’s definitely really intriguing and brings your mind to different places,” she said.

Howell also said she liked being able to see a professor’s work on display because she said it is a nice reference tool for art students who want to submit their work for display.

“That gives us a better idea of what they’re expecting,” Howell said. “It helps prepare us for what happens when we’re not in school anymore.”

Jipson said for this showcase he went through about 400 pictures, but had no trouble finding the right ones to choose.

“It’s really not difficult,” he said. “They, sort of, scream out and say, ‘We’re going to be interesting.’”

Jipson also said he finds that the greatest mystery of his artwork is seeing the object and forming an idea of what the image will look like only to be surprised.

“Even doing it for six years, I don’t know what the photograph is going to look like when it’s done,” he said.

As for his future plans, Jipson said he’s only looking forward.

“I can’t stop,” he said. “It’s in my blood at this point.”

The exhibit will run through Feb. 5, when he will deliver a lecture as part of the UWF Rite of Passage Lecture Series at 2 p.m.

For more information on Jipson and to view some of his work visit his website.