- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - Dr. Frankenstein got his start experimenting with small animals before he advanced to compositing a whole man from grave-robbed cadavers.

Similarly, Bloomington artist Kevin Strandberg began his experiments by tinkering with small cameras for reasons of pure function before moving on to assembling them whole from the dead.

As in, discarded or junked camera parts.

And, lately, even non-camera parts.

Frankenstein’s unwieldy experiments eventually led to the making of a creature bearing his own name (Frankenstein’s monster).

Strandberg’s experiments have led to something far less socially disruptive and much more aesthetically pleasing: a new Mclean County Arts Center exhibit, also bearing the name, sort of, of the man who made the monster.

“The Franken-Camera Project,” now on view in the MCAC’s Armstrong Gallery, features Strandberg’s photographic obsessions taken to their limit via 14 of his modified and/or completely redesigned and rebuilt film cameras and the resulting photographs they have produced.

The show’s subtitle captures its spirit in a snapshot: “From the sublime to the ridiculous.”

At one end of the spectrum is the aesthetic, sculptural quality of the man-made creations, which may have begun their lives as modified means to more functional ends, but have advanced to things of formal beauty.

Sculptures, in fact.

That sense is fortified by each Franken-camera’s personal testimonial: a striking framed silver gelatin print taken through its unique eye.

At the spectrum’s opposite end is Strandberg’s sense of humor about his self-described obsessive “tinkering” pursuits, which range from spending the past 24 years restoring on an old west-side Bloomington building to rebuilding an Italian motorcycle.

The sense of humor is embodied in the show’s most outré creation, a hulking behemoth dubbed Jack O’Camera, stitched together from a ‘60s TV antenna, a vintage scissors display case, a VW bug horn, a dozen 70mm bullet casings and more (see accompanying story).

“Either way, these Franken-cameras make me laugh when I look at them,” he says. “I certainly have the last laugh when I print negatives that these sculptures produce.”

Part of the success there comes from each of his creations being fitted with a high-resolution large format lens that produces the razor-sharp images on view.

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