Second Nature

Second Nature was the graduation show of nine Brooks MFA students and was featured as Brooks Institute’s final exhibit in Santa Barbara.

Each artist has spent the past year conceiving and crafting a unique body of photographic work. Written artist statements convey their discovery of the boundaries of learned responses and instinctive behaviors as they explore the many ways in which our species and our planet are rapidly changing.

These students offer viewers a unique perspective on what has become second nature in their own lives. Topics range from the environment, poverty, sexuality, identity, and the digital age. Traditional film photography, digital composite, collage, and installations may be found in the gallery space. The breadth of styles and topics explored provide a unique glimpse into the landscape of the contemporary fine art community.


A look at some of the work:

Ryan Gould’s body of work, POV, explores sexuality and the suggestive power of language. Through juxtaposition of elegant black and white photographs and phrases illuminated in bright pink neon, he investigates language’s ability to imbue sexual overtones into otherwise non-sexual imagery. His masterfully crafted images exhibit a strong graphical sensibility, giving the work an almost clinical overtone. Through POV, Gould leads the viewer through an investigation into the psychology of imagery.


'Untitled' (3) - Ryan Gould from POV
'Untitled' (1) - Ryan Gould from POV
'Untitled' (2) - Ryan Gould from POV
All images Untitled, by Ryan Gould from POV, 2015

Gould’s work can be found at:

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Brett Bollier’s series, Coherence, addresses an increasing reliance on digital devices in documenting life experience. By scanning and transforming his personal photographs, he creates images depicting columns of abstract pattern and color containing the distilled, underlying elements present in those past memories. Collectively, these columns reference the functional pattern of the barcode, alluding to the serialization of memory, and indicating what might be lost, as we move closer to a reality where use of internalized memory becomes secondary to digital storage.


BBollier 10 Waves
BBollier 13 Cities
BBollier 25 Trips To The Wilderness
From Left to right: 10 Waves, 13 Cities, 25 Trips To The Wilderness, by Brett Bollier from Coherence, 2015

Bollier’s work can be seen at:

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MFA student Bill Edwards’ project, Inevitable Collapse, brings attention to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a human-caused disease that is decimating global bee populations. This body of work examines the widespread environmental crisis of CCD going unnoticed by the general population. His images depict impossibly large insects lying dead in various locations. The surreal scale of these ignored bees carries a symbolic meaning of the catastrophe unfolding in plain sight. His application of industrial pesticides directly onto the prints emphasizes the harmful potential of these substances through the resulting destruction to the layers of pigment in the paper. In Inevitable Collapse, Edwards speaks for the creatures whom cannot speak for themselves.

Produce Section - Distressed -Bill Edwards 2015
Alleyway - Distressed -Bill Edwards 2015
Poolside - Distressed -Bill Edwards 2015
From Left to right: Produce Section, Alleyway, Poolside, by Bill Edwards from Inevitable Collapse, 2015

Edward’s work can be found at:

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Through the collaging of simple textures found in the everyday environment, photographer Andrew Caldwell creates surreal landscapes inspired by the daydreams of his childhood. The composited images stem from Caldwell’s imagination even though the bricolage elements providing the foundation for his imagery derive from everyday locations and elements. Through a surreal exploration of the link between fantastic and mundane, Caldwell creates new narratives that unravel the struggles of his past.


'Artifice' - Andrew Caldwell from In the Darkness, Before the Dawn
'Ad Naseam' - Andrew Caldwell from In the Darkness, Before the Dawn
'Accretion' - Andrew Caldwell from In the Darkness, Before the Dawn copy
From Left to right: Artifice, Ad Naseam, Accretion, by Andrew Caldwell from In the Darkness, Before the Dawn, 2015

Caldwell’s work can be found at:

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Photographer Makenzie Goodman’s work, A Far Empty Place, reminisces on her personal journey West in search of adventure and identity. Having been inspired as a young adult by writers such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation, Goodman developed a yearning for a new life in a new part of the country. Having made the migration from Pennsylvania to Southern California, Goodman reflects on her troubled search for belonging, and finds herself nostalgic for the home she left behind.


All images Untitled, by Makenzie Goodman from A Far Empty Place, 2015

Goodman’s work can be found at:

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Nicole Spahn’s project, Egregious, depicts her anxiety and fear of the modern food system. Her images draw inspiration from Renaissance painting and depict a dystopian subsistence where fruits and vegetables traditionally representing prosperity and health are now slowly poisoning their consumers. Through her photography, Spahn explores her increasingly anxiety concerning our ability to survive with a synthetically modified food production system.


Nicole Spahn
Nicole Spahn
Nicole Spahn
From Left to right: ‘Peas’, ‘Apple’, ‘Cucumber’, by Nicole Spahn from Egregious, 2015

Spahn’s work can be found at

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Rob Gainor’s project, The Sideboard, discusses increasing poverty rates and the death of the American middle class. Gainor’s own financial struggles allow him a unique vantage point through which he captures an intimate look into the American poor. His images depict his own family’s struggles with poverty. This visual narrative reveals the emotional toll of surviving in a state where even the smallest financial burden threatens to bankrupt his family.


Rob Gainor_02
Rob Gainor_01
Rob Gainor_03
All images Untitled, by Rob Gainor from The Sideboard, 2015

Gainor’s work can be found at:

– Story by Brett Bollier