Though his primary work as a visual artist has been in the medium of photography, Dean Dablow also produces paintings, sculpture, and mixed-media objects.
Fhough his primary work as a visual artist has been in the medium of photography, Dean Dablow produces paintings, sculpture, and mixed-media objects. In addition to his own artistic output, Dablow’s role as an educator of some thirty-one years at Louisiana Tech in Ruston has been an influence on multiple generations of students pursuing fine arts degrees at the university level. He was one of the contemporary photographers included in the exhibition, A Century of Vision: Louisiana Photography 1884–1984. Dablow’s straightforward photographs made in both black-and-white and color, such as Stairs Fall from Ceiling (1981), and the Rocks on a Flat Plane series of the mid-1980s, are direct in their depiction of subjects, which are often enigmatic and uninhabited spaces.
Dablow was born in Superior, Wisconsin, in 1946. He received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and a master of fine arts in photography, with a minor in sculpture, from the University of Iowa in 1974. His tenure at Louisiana Tech began in 1976, when he became co-coordinator of the photography program in the School of Art, a position he held until 1997.
Dablow served as director of the School of Art at Louisiana Tech from 1997 through 2006, and it was in that position in 2005 that he oversaw and implemented the transition in the photography program from the traditional photographic film-based chemistry of the darkroom to one centered on digital technologies. It was a strategy to ensure that the school’s graduates were not disadvantaged in real-world situations that demanded knowledge of the latest graphics and communications techniques. Dablow retired from the faculty of Louisiana Tech in 2007. He continues to lecture at workshops throughout the country and exhibits his artworks in group and solo exhibitions. His nonphotographic artworks employ materials that range from graphite and spray paint to auto-body filler and traditional artist pigments. Dablow’s photographs and drawings are in more than a dozen public collections throughout the United States.
In 1991, Dablow undertook an examination of photographs made in Louisiana during the Great Depression by photographers including Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Marion Post Wolcott. Employing both personal commentary and re-photography of many of those places, the project resulted in a book and exhibition, both entitled The Rain Are Fallin’. The 141 photographs from this effort are housed in the Louisiana Tech Special Collections.
A 2009 exhibition at the South Arkansas Arts Center in El Dorado showcased not only his photographs, but paintings and sculptures, two means of expression to which Dablow has devoted much time and thought. About his recent work in painting, Dablow writes, “Before I begin any project, I ask myself this question, ‘What if?’ And those two words have enlarged my scope of what can be. This question is dangerous, however, in that it presumes the potential for failure as an end product. But this is something of which I am not afraid. Failure is simply a learning process.”