Finding beauty in the 'Dust'

Death is an element of life that isn't perceived as beautiful by most, but Jessica Treskes tried to look past the loss of life and expose its beauty with her upcoming art show at Biola University.

From April 22 to 26, the Biola Art Gallery will showcase "Dwellers of the Dust," seven pictures taken by the 21-year-old Huntington Beach resident that each contain an image of a decayed animal superimposed with the image of a model in the same position.

"I was at a beach in Rancho Palos Verdes, on one of their trails, and a lot of things blow up on the rocks there," Treskes said. "I kept finding these dead animals that were fully decayed with just their bones, and they're really beautiful. Death is something people don't really see as beautiful."

In one of the 40-by-60-inch pictures, a decomposed pelican lay on the rocks with its bones exposed. Treskes then had her sister, Beth, position herself next to the carcass in the same way the seabird died.

Treskes, a photography major, borrowed a technique used in film cameras called multiple exposure — where two or more images are placed on top of each other.

Though she shot the pictures using her Canon 5D Mark II, Treskes replicated the method by using Photoshop.

"I put [the images] on top of each other and made it kind of like a double exposure so that the bones were pulling through the bodies," she said.

As a senior attending a Christian university, Treskes was inspired by a book in the Old Testament written by Ecclesiastes, who wrote about how there is a higher purpose in life and that death isn't the end, she said.

"It has always been something that's been hard for me to understand, and death is something that is really hard for me to understand," Treskes said. "Being a Christian, it's something that we're always told not to fear, but I'm still fearful of friends and family dying because they won't be here anymore."

Photography was a passion Treskes discovered also while in college. Beginning her time at Biola as a design major, she decided to study both with a heavier emphasis on photography.

"It's so hands-on and you're in control of your film. It's really yours. It's something you're creating," she said.

Though her gallery may display images of decaying animals, Treskes usually does lifestyle photographs, including covering engagements and family gatherings, she said.

"I really like the interaction that you have between you and the people you're shooting," Treskes said. "I like getting to know them, talk to them and see what they're looking for."

After she graduates from Biola this semester, Treskes wants to get a hair and makeup license and one day open her own photography studio where she meld do both, she said.

Treskes has shown her pieces to professors and friends and has received mixed reactions from them.

"They tell me it's breathtaking, and people have been asking me if it's kid-friendly," she said. "It's a little weird to look at someone as if they're ripped open. They don't look bloody or gory. It's really beautiful. They can't really tell if they're human bones or [animal bones] until you really look at it."

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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If You Go

What: "Dwellers of the Dust"

Where: Biola University Art Gallery, 13800 Biola Ave., La Mirada

When: 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 22 through 26

Cost: Free

Information: (562) 903-4807

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