Visual artist explores time, light at Nemeth Art Center

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Cameron Gainer is a filmmaker, sculptor, artist, photographer and publisher of “The Third Rail,” a nonprofit quarterly publication devoted to discussion of modern and contemporary art, politics, philosophy and culture.
The Minneapolis-based artist is currently “really interested in completing a series of oil paintings I started while I was a Smithsonian research fellow in 2014 at the National Air and Space Museum,” he says.
Gainer’s artistry is featured at Park Rapids’ Nemeth Art Center through July 16.
An artist reception and talk will be held Saturday, June 25 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
His cinematic work on display, “Luna del Mar,” was filmed in Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
The mesmerizing video captures light created by millions of dinoflagellates, marine plankton that generates bioluminescence. The tiny, single-cell microorganisms thrive in these coastal waters.
Dinoflagellates emit an evanescent, soft-blue halo of light when triggered by movement or surrounding turbulence. This is the only light source in the film. 
Gainer worked with Olympic synchronized swimmer Luña del Mar Aquiliú to choreograph her movements in the water. Aquiliú represented Puerto Rico at the 2004 Olympics.
“The project actually took a little over four years to realize,” Gainer said. “A good part of that time was spent researching the location, the camera and finding Luna. I was the cinematographer, but I worked with an amazing team of people to capture the footage.”
Japanese cameraman Soichiro Takemoto developed a specialized camera for the project. There are only a handful of such light-sensitive cameras in the world, Gainer said.
“It’s generally attached to telescopes and records images of deep space in real time,” he said. “I also worked with composer/musician Alex Waterman to create music for the piece. He recorded audio in seaside caves, underwater and in the forest nearby and then played his cello into the soundscape.”
A still photograph of the delicate, bioluminescent creatures is also on display at the Nemeth.
“There are a myriad of inspirations and concepts that informed the project,” Gainer said. “Generally, when we look at film or photography, we are looking at manmade or sunlight reflected off of the subject of the film. I was interested in making a series of works that featured earth-based light itself as the subject. I was also captivated by the idea of creating a portrait of the universe using a single-celled organism.”
His Nemeth exhibit includes “L.I.T. (Lighting Illuminated Trees),” an image of two trees aglow with a lightning strike. It was photographed at 2 a.m. on the North Shore of Lake Superior.
“Sunrise/Sunset” is an image of a sunset projected onto a wall through a hourglass. Over the course of 18 minutes, the sunset is revealed by the disappearing sands of time. It perfectly mimics the experience of watching a sunrise.
Gainer stumbled upon the effect while working on another art project.
“I was working with a really talented glassblower in Minneapolis named Jackson Schwartz,” Gainer explained. “We were making a series of hand-blown hourglasses that I was then experimenting with in my studio. I was trying to make an hourglass that was 12-feet tall and would last 24 hours. One afternoon, I placed the hourglass in front of a projector that was screening a 1976 episode of ‘Days of Our Lives’ on 16mm film. At the time, I was playing with the TV series’ intro footage, which also features an hourglass. This was for another project I was working on called ‘Eternal Hour.’ As the sand descended, the timing reminded me of watching the sun move across the sky out of and into the horizon.”

“Eternal Hour,” is currently on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Another film, “N.I.L.” opens June 2 at Minneapolis’ Weinstein Gallery. For this project, Gainer traveled to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to film a species of firefly.
What does Gainer hope audiences will take away from the Nemeth exhibit?
“Something they didn’t know existed,” he said.
Gainer said he enjoys both art and science, “especially when it reaches the edges of abstraction like theoretical physics, string theory, really anything on the edge of contemporary scientific thought. Artists and scientists drive the evolution of culture and the quest for knowledge by performing acts of invention and discovery symbiotically.”
Gainer has had solo exhibitions in Philadelphia and Tampa. Recent group exhibitions were in New York, Los Angeles, Houston and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
The Nemeth Art Center is located at the historic courthouse on 3rd Street and Court Ave. Admission is free. Hours are Thursdays through Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.