Art show explores places to go, people to meet

Exhibit features photography, paintings and a friendly reunion
By: Don Chaddock, The Telegraph
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Six years after a chance meeting that forged a strong friendship be-tween two explorers in Thailand, the pair reunited in Folsom on Thursday. Cameron Karsten was just 19 when he left his home in the Seattle, Wash., area to explore the world, a camera in hand. His family worried about him, he said, but he was looking for life experiences and was passionate about photography. What he found was a lifelong friend. “I was backpacking across Southeast Asia,” he said. “I was wondering what I was doing, alone in a foreign country. My mom cried for the first month. She had no idea where I was or what I was doing.” On Christmas Day 2003 Karsten was in a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, when he found another Westerner, Dennis Peyton. “It was a really great hotel,” Peyton recalls. Peyton, who calls himself a “resident of the world,” drove from Fresno when he heard Karsten would be showing his photography in Folsom at the Gallery at 48 Natoma. It was the first time the pair had seen each other since they met six years earlier. Karsten, now 25, said they have kept in touch through phone calls and e-mails, but hadn’t seen each other face-to-face in all that time. “We almost ran into each other in Bali, but not quite,” Peyton said. “I had tears in my eyes (seeing Peyton),” Karsten said. “We’re kindred spirits. We connected so deeply. So to see him and have him support (my show), it’s overwhelming. He’s like a brother to me.” Karsten’s photography, which is part of the show “The World Around Us” now on display at the Gallery at 48 Natoma in Folsom, focuses on the ways people connect. “I look for the emotion in my subjects,” Karsten said. “I want to be able to connect and share a place in the world.” He said there isn’t much difference between people in Africa and those in Europe. “Whether it’s a child in Nigeria or politicians in Ireland, I look for the similarities,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going around the world.” He said he enjoys the adventure and risk of traveling. “In all my six years of travels, I’ve never felt threatened or scared,” Karsten said. “I saw a bank robbery in Costa Rica (where) some Westerners were killed. I left the area as soon as things (got) started.” His father warned him about losing his head to savages, Karsten said. “When I got home, Dad was happy to see I hadn’t lost my head,” he said. “I said, ‘Oh, Dad, I really lost my head.’ I allowed my mind to open and accept other people and accept myself for where I was.” To follow Karsten’s travels, visit THE PAINTERS For two local watercolor artists, the new show is something special. Diana Johnson and Kandi Thompson regularly get together to paint and now they are showing their work as part of the same show. Johnson, a Folsom resident, said painting is just in her blood. “My mother liked to paint,” she said. “I just love the feel of the paint on the brush, even if it’s on just a wall.” She said her mother’s love of art helped inspire her own artistic passion. “You know how some parents give you a piece of paper and crayons? When I was a kid, I wanted a big coloring book. I feel like I’m still doing it,” she said. For Thompson, she said she’s inspired by her subject matter, looking for mood and ambience. “That’s what I love about painting,” Thompson said. She said she’s always loved art and has been painting for 20 years. “I love portraiture a lot,” Thompson said. “It’s a lot like photography.” THE SHOW Cindy Abraham, the gallery’s manager, said the show reflects the world. “Every continent is represented here,” she said. “From Peruvian portraits to the gorgeous Chinese bazaars, they are all here.” She said the show melds perfectly. “When I was hanging (the art), I was struck by how well this all came together,” she said.