Wounded warrior makes gallery debut
Joe hendricks | submitted
Artspace owner Deborah Webster with Christian
Ulanch shows one of his photgraphs.
ANNA MARIA – Friday night, patrons of the Artspace Studios and Gallery in Anna Maria celebrated the public debut of local photographer and former Gulf War veteran Christian Ulanch.
On display at 101 South Bay Blvd. through June 7, Ulanch’s PhotoNutt exhibit features a series of 10 close-up photographs of Anna Maria landmarks such as the Island Historical Museum, CrossPointe Fellowship, Galati’s Marina and more.
Using his digital camera and 28-300mm zoom lens, Ulanch spent six months compiling the photos featured in the exhibit.
He described his work as “very abstract” due to the up-close nature of the photographs.
“They’re all public buildings and they’re all on Anna Maria,” he said of his subject matter, noting that he hopes to exhibit his sunrise and sunset photos in the future.
While serving as a Marine in the Gulf War, Ulanch suffered a brain hemorrhage as the result of chemical exposure. The injury left him partially paralyzed on his right side, with a soft, monotone speaking voice and some memory loss.
“My experience in the Gulf War was a good experience,” he said of his transportation-related military duties. “I did some good work there, but the injury was the result of it.”
Before being injured, Ulanch was proficient in the use of pastels and ink. Due to his injuries, photography became a more practical means of artistic expression.
While discussing the origins of the exhibit, gallery owner Deborah Webster said, “Chris would come up to Artspace at least once every other week to show me new photos he had taken. He goes around the island and takes photos of parts of the island that we all ignore. I’ve known Chris for a couple years now and what he’s done is so courageous, continuing to strive to do his very best in everything after his injuries in the Gulf War.”
As for her attraction to Ulanch’s work, Webster said, “What I like about Chris’s photography is the simplicity of it. He able to pick up abstract elements in everyday objects.”
Ulanch’s photos are now sharing space with the studio’s five resident artists, all of whom live in Anna Maria.
Webster said the PhotoNutt exhibit (named after Ulanch’s e-mail address) ties nicely into the gallery mission of encouraging artists of all ages to come here to ArtSpace and work.
“We encourage people to take risks,” Webster said. “Chris’ work is here for two reasons – to honor him for what he’s doing and to encourage other people to take creative risks.”
Webster is donating her commission on any photos sold to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Ulanch is donating his proceeds to the Moriah Hope Goode Medical Fund established to help the 14-year-old island resident and her family cover the cost of treatment for lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.
The exhibit took on an added element of interactive fun as patrons received a printed list containing the names of 15 Anna Maria landmarks and were challenged to identify the 10 featured in Ulanch’s exhibit.
Claire Starrett said she enjoyed the search and find challenge, saying, “It’s so hard, and I pass these places every day.”
Anna Maria blogger Gene Ciliberti said, “I think I recognize Ginny’s & Jane E’s, but I have no idea what the others are – and I live on the island.”
Three Island Monkeys owner Kandi Kerekes echoed Ciliberti’s thoughts, saying, “You look, but you don’t see,” in reference to the small details captured in Ulanch’s work.
Kerekes was the first to correctly name all ten locations, winning a gift certificate from the Chiles restaurant group, good for dinner at the Sandbar, Mar Vista or the BeachHouse.
Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn was among those attending the affair. She and other well-wishers complimented Ulanch on his work as he sat in the center of the room accompanied by his girlfriend Cori Carlton.
As for what he hopes patrons take from his exhibit, Ulanch said, “I just hope they get as much enjoyment out looking at them as I did taking them.”