Local artist Sharon Koelblinger mixes photography and sculptures in her latest exhibition

By using mirrors and steel frames, Koelblinger creates optical illusions through her pieces.

Raha Murtuza, Arts Editor

In the Commongrounds Gallery of the VisArts center, you will find artist Sharon Koelblinger’s latest exhibition, “Maybe the Moon Doesn’t Want Us.” At first glance, it doesn’t seem like much. Just some white steel squares on a wall..

But when you go closer, you’ll notice that they are so much more than empty squares. Behind a layer of metal, there are pictures and patterns vibrating with color. There are small shapes cut into each piece– squiggles, circles and triangles. Each shape is echoed on the picture, as a mirror, so that when you look into the holes the shapes create, there is a piece of you inside of it.

At a time when photographic imagery competes for our attention everywhere from public advertisements to our personal phones … I try to slow down the process of looking at photographs and draw the viewer’s awareness to their own gaze,” Koelbinger said. “My artwork is designed to bring viewer’s awareness back to their peripheral vision.”

Koelbinger began photography when she was in high school, but majored in sculpture in college. She switched back to photography in graduate school and blended the two to create “Maybe the Moon Doesn’t Want Us.” “I am often incorporating three-dimensional and two-dimensional media together in my work,” she said. “My goal is to make viewers walk around a photograph like they walk around a sculpture.”

Prior to making the pieces, Koelbinger created paper models to understand the dimensions and experiment with different shapes without worrying about messing up on steel. She then designed the steel frames with Adobe Illustrator and cut the shapes out with a waterjet cutter. To make them white, she painted through powder coating. Powder coating uses a gun filled with powder to spray on the paint and gives the frame its white sheen.

“The steel frame obscures a straightforward viewing angle, so viewers must peek around the sides of the sculptural frame to catch glimpses of the reflected photographic imagery,” she said. “The frames are installed with ample physical space in between to enable viewers to press their bodies against the wall, crouch below to look up and take multiple angles to see the image shift as their body moves in space.”

For the photos, Koelbinger took pictures of herself and family members she was quarantined with. She took the photos and attached them to the frames and added the mirrors in the shape of the cutouts, which were inspired by textiles from the mid 20th century.

If you’re ever looking for something to do in Rockville Town Center, consider stopping by the VisArts center and checking out “Maybe the Moon Doesn’t Want Us,” which is located on the second floor. Perhaps Koelbinger’s work might even inspire you in your own creative endeavors.