Damir Porobic photographs his memories.
Through Jan. 24, the South Portland artist exhibits “Memory Prints” at PhoPa Gallery on Washington Avenue in Portland. The art show features Porobic’s photo-composite prints that capture images found in his memories and dreams.
“We all dream and remember,” he said. “We all recall.”
The prints on view at PhoPa are subtle, fleeting compositions that vaguely resemble something familiar: A chair, a car or some other thing from a moment in time that we remember but can’t quite place. The images are foggy, opaque and elusive.
Porobic, who lectures on printmaking and digital arts at the University of Southern Maine, documents his subjects at different times and circumstances. He reduces those multiple photographs to a single image. The result is something between a photo and print.
They are prints in the sense that he runs his image through a printer dozens of times, creating a complex and layered final image. He uses a digital printer almost like a printing press, where an image is constructed in multiple passes.
They start as photographs, but he never knows what the final image will look like.
“In the end, it’s a single digital print, but these prints take days and more to get built up and created as a work of art. One works in blindness initially,” he said.
His objects are from his everyday life.
For example, a coffee mug.
He shot his coffee mug in his car console, at his office desk, in the kitchen sink, the dishwasher, on the patio table and elsewhere. He dropped the opacity to close to nothing so the image was almost transparent, then made a print.
He repeated that process with nearly all images of the mug, then printed them on the same sheet of paper, running it again and again through the printer and layering different moments of time to build an image that resembles the full opacity of the original photograph.
As different layers are added, the image appears.
The result is an image that is almost indistinguishable “and not really there.”
The prints have strong photographic elements, but are fleeting and almost imaginary.
That’s how they resemble dreams and memories: The viewer can recognize an object, but not quite grasp it. It is within reach, but elusive.
Porobic has shown his work many times, mostly in group exhibitions. Bruce Brown, who curates at PhoPa, suggested a solo show.
Porobic’s exploration began with his own personal journey.
He has spent more than half his life in the United States, leaving the former Yugoslavia when he was 17. By age 13, he was a double-refugee of the Croatian and Bosnian wars.
He received a visa to study in the United States and finished high school in Arkansas, then studied printmaking at the Kansas City Art Institute. He earned his master’s in printmaking and new media at West Virginia University in 2005.
It was his global travel that led to his interest in photography and digital media.
“During grad school, I started looking at photographs of things and photographs of myself. I grew up during the civil wars, and we didn’t have cameras and did not have time to take pictures in everyday settings. I realized the only photographs I had from a period of more than 10 years were passport photos and ID cards,” he said.
“It was interesting to me that this 2-by-2-inch picture stands for one’s personality.”
Porobic has enjoyed listening to people talk as they view his work. Most are complimentary, he said.
“But I also get some responses of frustration,” he said. “It can be frustrating to some people, who want to know what it is or why they have this emotional connection or response to it.”
Generally, younger people are more accepting. “I think they appreciate the progressive nature of it and the fresh feel of it.”
WHEN: Through Jan. 24; noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday
WHERE: PhoPa Gallery, 132 Washington Ave., Portland
HOW MUCH: Free
INFO: 207-517-0200 or phopagallery.com
EVENTS: Reception 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday; artist talk 2 p.m. Jan. 11