Los Angeles-based editorial and portrait photographer Christopher Mortenson is hosting the first of what he hopes will be many more solo shows.
Titled “Meditations,” the show’s opening ceremony will run from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Dmst Atelier art gallery on Saturday, Nov. 12 — which also happens to be Mortenson’s 36th birthday. The exhibition will feature a collection of mixed-media collages and photographs that the creator, who goes by “Morty,” has been working on for a combined 15 years.
“I feel like a lot of people are expecting it to be all photographs. Not many people know that I make this type of art,” said Mortenson, the staff photographer for LA Downtown News. “I’m just known as the photographer, so I’m really excited to share this other stuff that I’ve been making and thinking about.”
For nearly five years, Mortenson has been brainstorming and dreaming about “Meditations.”
He began finding and gathering miscellaneous items, repurposing them for use in a variety of collages he has been creating in his free time since 2018. The past few months, he has slowly been piecing together a collection of around 20 mixed-media and wood collages on canvas inspired by Dadaism.
Mortenson chose the name “Meditations” for his show because he and his old roommates would wind down by cutting up and repurposing postcards. As someone who likes to see an idea through without stopping, creating art with postcards was a way for him to “ease his mind” and “see something finished.”
“The show’s called that because even though some of (these pieces) took a couple of days, I primarily work on a single one all the way until it’s done and then I go to the next one,” he said. “It’s kind of how I relax from looking at a computer, taking pictures or things like that. It helps keep me creative.”
Alongside his collages, Mortenson will showcase approximately 60 photographs that he has shot over the course of his decade living in the City of Angels. He calls them “an ode to LA.”
“The photo side is for basically all of my friends who I’ve met in the last 10 years in LA,” he said. “That stuff is all for them because I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have them to take pictures of.”
When people walk into the gallery and encounter his work, Mortenson wants them to see something that brings back an experience or evokes a certain feeling.
“I’ll be sharing what I see with other people, and hopefully it sparks inspiration, or change, questions or anything really. I’m all about trying to inspire people to go after their dreams and do things, as much as possible,” he said.
“I hope that people chuckle, laugh and they get it, because some of it’s funny and some of it’s personal. I really feel like art is so subjective.”
Some of Mortenson’s pieces were created during challenging periods in his life and are “healing, in a way.” Others are a reflection of the fun times he’s been having the past several years.
“It’s giving me more ideas for the future and just for ways of thinking about my photographs and what to do next, so it’s had a positive effect,” he said. “Also, just putting something together like this is realizing how much work it is and not wanting to fail and do a bad job.”
Mortenson knew he wanted to become a photographer as early as 5 years old. He was inspired by his mother, a Naval photographer, whose boxes of photos he always came across when they moved.
“She had pictures of battleships, planes and all this stuff, and I just thought it was so cool,” he said. “I just loved photography, and it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I never changed. I’ve never strayed from that path.”
Originally from a small town in New Mexico, Mortenson considers simply becoming a professional photographer his biggest achievement. He kept pushing toward his goals despite those who doubted him, and went on to earn his bachelor’s in fine art and photography from New Mexico State University.
His showing of “Meditations” in Downtown LA is consequently a significant highlight of his career as a photographer and artist.
“I’m just grateful. I’m really excited to have a gallery Downtown,” he said.
Following opening day of “Meditations,” Dmst Atelier will host its monthly community feed event on Nov. 19, where participants provide potluck-style food to Skid Row residents. Mortenson will close out the event with a 30-minute artist talk.
The gallery is located in the Arts District at 1117 E. Seventh Street.
For more information about Mortenson and his work, visit his Instagram or mortyvision.com.