Look familiar?

Photographer and digital media artist Ella Putney Carlson imagines alien life

NH Weekend Editor
November 15. 2017 12:59PM
In “Alien Incubation,” a science-fiction gestation finds little hands and feet growing human-looking digits, but the eyes suggest an otherworldy influence, extending up and above the head on a pair of tentacles. 
If you go...
WHAT: 'Aliens Invade Jupiter Hall'

WHEN: Reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday. Exhibition through Dec. 15.

WHERE: Jupiter Hall, 89 Hanover St., Manchester.

INFO: www.facebook.com/JupiterHallNH or twitter.com/jupiterhallnh.

MANCHESTER — Thanks to the magic of movies, aliens have a reputation for being seriously unapproachable. Aside from the loveable ET, they’ve largely been a disagreeable bunch bent on chomping their way to world domination.

But what if intergalactic foreigners weren’t really so different from the inhabitants of Earth?

Dunstable, Mass., digital media artist and photographer Ella Putney Carlson journeys into an imagined realm where the focus is on what creatures have in common, rather than what might separate them.

“What does it mean to be an alien? Aren’t we all alien in some sense?,” she said. “Even more importantly, aren’t we able to find similarities in nearly every imagined alien species? These are my musings on alien life forms.”

The result — vivid depictions of creatures with features, traits or environments that suggest both familiar and out-of-this-world influences — will be unveiled at a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at Jupiter Hall, 89 Hanover St.

The exhibit, which will run through Dec. 15, will feature 36 works of varying medium and sizes.

These are wild-looking beings yet pieces of them are relatable. Is it a finger here, a soft gaze there, or perhaps the cigarette jauntily tucked in the corner of a mouth on a giant eyeball creature?

In “Alien Incubation,” a fetus appears to be suspended in a clear globe that is half filled with amber-colored fluid. Smoky white vapors curl around the container, in which two swimming fish flank the growing figure in the center. The fetus has tiny little hands and feet, each with five digits.

But the golden eyes are oversized and hover several inches above the head on tentacle-like extentions that start from where a nose on a human baby might be.

In “Peep,” a golden flower stem seems to bloom into a reddish-pink flower, with a feathered and beaked head. The intent bird-like gaze is framed by eye sockets and “cheeks” that call to mind the intricate swirl of a nautilus shell.

“This collection of very unreal aliens were all created from familiar objects, but most bare only vague similarities to beings we know,” she writes in an artist’s statement. “They invite interaction and consideration of what it means to be an alien.”

As such, her work has broader implications, and is meant to inspire conversation about human interaction on this planet.

“The descriptor ‘alien’ has inspired fear, territoriality, loathing, and even lead to election-tipping promises about an impracticable wall,” said Carlson in her artist’s statement. “In reality, aliens are actually not very alien at all. Made from familiar flesh and fiber, most of those who are defined as ‘alien’ are nearly identical to those who aren’t.

Carlson, who earned a master of fine arts degree from the New Hampshire Institute of Art (NHIA) in Manchester, has been teaching photographic imaging at the University of Mass, Lowell, since the late 1990s.

She serves on the board of the Professional Photographers Association of New England and the board of trustees for the NHIA.

Her art has been exhibited widely including the Danforth Museum and DeCordova Museum, both in Massachusetts., and Vermont Center for Photography.

In addition, her work has been published in several books as well as the Professional Photographers of America Loan Book, the Showcase Book, and Professional Photographer Magazine, and her book “Fine Art Photoshop” was published this past spring.

Friday’s opening of “Aliens Invade Jupiter Hall” also will include performances and food and wine tastings.

ArtsManchesterPhoto Feature

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