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Ryn Clarke (1949-)

Pictured above (from left):

  • Baby White Egret, 2020
  • Blue Butterfly, 2020
  • Zinnia and Butterfly, 2020

See below for materials, location and more on each of these works.

About the art and artist

Photographer Ryn Clarke has been making what we could call fantasy photos of images that she has captured with her digital camera and then subjected to various transformations to create complex scenes. She calls these “composites” because they are composed of disparate pieces from her photographs. She began making these some years ago when, to create a unique gift, she took apart a friend’s bridal bouquet, photographing each flower, leaf and spike separately. Then she re-combined these into a new composition, using digital software to vary size, color, orientation, focus, and so on, to achieve her overall vision. The resulting composition was a totally new — and unique — object that captured the essence of the original bouquet, preserving it visually in an arresting new image.

Baby White Egret

Baby White Egret, 2020

Materials: Digital photographic composite on aluminum, 4/5; 20”x 20”

Location at Summa:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, fifth floor, hallway outside patient rooms H5-105 and H5-106.

Clarke’s recent composite series originated in daily walks with her dog during the 2020 pandemic: She captured, with her digital camera, elements of the natural world that struck her, some unusual, others beautiful but often overlooked, and brought those back to edit together into this particular composition.In Baby Egret, she has chosen a white-grey monochrome palette set against greens, and she has altered the scale of individual flowers, as well as the butterflies and the hanging moss (which is not a local feature).These she places against a background from the Cuyahoga River Valley that she has altered to conform to the palette and to create a misty, somewhat mysterious setting for the wildlife. This includes the white egret, which is one of the local “characters” she likes to insert into her composites.

The flash of brilliant red flowers at lower left and middle right animates the composition. We are invited to marvel at the textures of petals and leaves, the delicate intricacy of hanging moss, and smoothness of downy feathers.Clarke finally prints on aluminum, which contributes a kind of sheen that does not fade.The editioning information tells us that this print is the fourth of a total of five that were made.

Blue Butterfly

Blue Butterfly, 2020

Materials: Digital photographic composite on aluminum, 1/5; 20” x 20”

Location at Summa:  Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), fifth floor hallway, outside patient rooms H5-105 and H5-106.

The two primary colors, blue and yellow, predominate in this composite, and then their intermediate, green, which is made up of blue combined with yellow, weaves the various parts together. At this level, Clarke has given us a subtle lesson on the color wheel, using goldenrod, wild mustard, wild pea, and loosestrife.

Which we might miss if we were to take this scene simply as a moment of nature captured in a viewfinder. But instead, we discern that the entire scene has been artfully composed, the scale of the butterflies, pushed right up into the foreground, overwhelming that of the distant Great Blue heron and of the diligent but slow caterpillar below on right. We recognize familiar forms, but also enjoy the frisson of the unfamiliar as Clarke re-presents them to us in ways that she controls and in a range of hues that tend to shimmer against the manipulated blurred background. 

It might seem odd that the central butterfly in Blue Butterfly is, in fact, a Tiger Swallowtail, caught in flight and surrounded by a corona of small yellow flowers as it perches for the nectar on a stalk of yellow loosestrife. Directly above is the blue butterfly, its almost transparent wings traced in a white outline, and another of its genus further to the right. Then to the lower left, two tiny white butterflies, whose wings are deeply shaded in a luminous blue with faint orange tips, keep our eyes moving among the grasses and flowers of this meadow. Each of these flowers and stands of grass come from a separate photographic capture, which Clarke has stitched together digitally in order to create this scene.

Here the artist’s vision becomes a moment of summer abundance, made brilliantly memorable through her control of color, texture, scale, and distance.

Zinnia and Butterfly

Zinnia and Butterfly, 2020

Materials, dimensions: Digital photographic composite on aluminum, 36" x 36"

Location at Summa: Juve Family Behavioral Health Pavilion, 2nd floor, Southwest hallway, end wall outside office P1

About the art and the artist:

Ryn Clarke's fascinating digital photographic compositions begin in the world around us and often take particular times and days as their point of origin.  Here a brilliant yellow-orange zinnia seems to dance in anticipation of greeting a butterfly of similar hue, coming in for a landing.  We observe a balance between the swaying flower, as if it were slightly turned away from the approaching butterfly with its lower right petals gently raised, and the directed but poised winged creature, ready to glide in on an opposite diagonal from the lower right.

OK. Then we step back to notice that this is an outsized flower and butterfly!  Dozens of much smaller yellow flowers provide the carpet from which the zinnia slowly pivots, and similarly dozens of tiny butterflies, of the same bright yellow-gold as the zinnia and its friend, flitter in the surrounding air.  The smaller yellow flowers seem to lean in, as if dancing attendance on the zinnia, from both sides, while the diminutive butterflies appear to swirl around the head of the zinnia.  And the differentials in scale of these tinier elements make it appear, at first glance, as though they are molecules of color that the zinnia and butterfly are shaking off into the air! Something magical is happening!  And we the observer recognize a clue that the artist provides us: That soft focus on everything not in the absolute foreground of the image.  So, we intuit that this is somehow an enchanted moment, a fantasy - there must be a story somewhere in this image.

The artist tells us that she creates fictive images from the photographs she makes, often on walks throughout northeastern Ohio, with her digital camera.  She then selects pieces of these to re-compose them (so she calls them "composites") into images inspired by something she has seen or thought about, somewhat in the way of collaging meaningful items into a scrapbook such that they gain relationships, even narratives, by the juxtapositions that she chooses.  These compositing steps are taken using digital imaging and photo editing software programs, with the final digital product being printed, here on aluminum.  But we hardly need to know all this to savor the moment of imagination here.

Where you can see more works like this:

Other works in the Summa Collection that take as their point of departure individual pandemic experiences include those by Lisa M. Schonberg], M, and Eileen Dorsey.


Clarke was born and raised in Cleveland and returned after earning an Associate’s degree in graphic design at Marymount University (Arlington, Va.). She has studied with well-known photographers around the country and always builds in extra time to explore an area with her camera when she travels for business. She has had a successful career as a commercial photographer and also teaches photo workshops on composite photography and iPhone photography.

Where you can see more of this artist’s work

Works by Clarke are held in the collections of major corporations and hospitals in northeastern Ohio β€” University Hospitals, Southwest General, Summa Health Systems β€” as well as in the Cuyahoga County Building, the Eaton, General Electric and Nordson Corporations; and many galleries in Cleveland, Chagrin Falls, West Virginia and Colorado. You can see her photographs in Michael Symon’s Roast in Detroit and at CRU Uncorked in Moreland Hills. She exhibits regularly in Northeast Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia and Texas. She has shown with the Bonfoey Gallery.

On her website, you can find many examples of the various types of work that she makes, including more of her composites. The categories of her photographs give you a good idea of her travels and various commissions, as well.

You can hear her discuss her latest work on the podcast Photographing the West. On a subsequent podcast, she offers some of her insights into photographing with your mobile phone.

The healing arts at Summa Health


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