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Aandra Aabdock: photographer

Eileen JoyceAandra Aabdock hand tones a photograph at her Nevada City home Tuesday.
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“Empathema*,” the name of Nevada City photographer Aandra Aabdock’s first solo exhibition which opens in February, aptly describes her philosophy about art.

She says empathema refers to ungovernable passion.



“Empathema is powerful. I think we all want more of this in our life; to continue a life as an artist, it’s a necessary ingredient,” said Aabdock, who wasn’t so passionate two years ago.




“I had totally abandoned myself and my art, and was just in a cycle of paying bills and getting to work. I felt I wasn’t really nurturing myself,” Aabdock said. She majored in science in the 1970s and was a dental hygienist for 13 years, the last five in Nevada County. Her legal name is Diane Shaw.

Two years ago, Aabdock received unexpected funds, so she no longer had to work full time to pay the bills. She finally had time to take care of projects not yet completed.

“I had a lot of unfinished prints and negatives under my bed,” she said. “I wanted to get this stuff out and shown because artists need to challenge people’s perceptions. For me personally, I felt my art had to be seen by the public.”

Although she didn’t become serious about photography until 1991, Aabdock has always enjoyed it.

“In college, it was the one class I came early to and stayed late for,” she said. “I even showed up on a holiday, which I forgot was a holiday. I just loved it. I wanted to be there every second.”

Today, Aabdock can be engaged in photography whenever she wants, which is any time of the day.

“My latest photography project is always in my mind. I’m in my bed dreaming and I’m thinking of a costume I’m designing for someone’s photograph,” she said. “It never leaves me – I always have fliers in my car to post in town, looking for models. It’s a passion that’s always with me, in my gut.”

Her latest project will explore the dynamics of women’s body images. It includes interviews, followed by photographs.

She’s very comfortable with her methods.

Aabdock has used the same type of film (Kodak Plus-X 125), the same camera (Olympus OM-2) and the same lens (50 mm) for 10 years. She doesn’t like tripods. She prefers to hold the camera, use natural light and tint each photograph by hand.

“I don’t do landscapes, I don’t do animals,” she said. “It’s all real personal work; sometimes it’s a fusion of social issues and personal expressions. What I want to do is move people. Through my art, I can access my own feelings.”

She takes photos that represent abstract ideas.

“They’re a visual stimulus that bring a story into the viewer’s own mind,” Aabdock said, “so my pictures are allegorical. They don’t have a clear message. A lot of times, I have no idea what they mean.”

Aabdock’s first solo art show runs through February at Cafe Mekka. An artist’s reception is from 3 to 5 p.m. Feb. 3. Cafe Mekka is at 237 Commercial St., Nevada City. Then the exhibit moves to Flour Garden Bakery, 11999 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, in March.


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