Too Many Hands.

I printed off a few photos for the first time, and everyone keeps telling me that there are too many hands.

“You don’t want it to look cliche,” a friend told me.

And…so what?

The thing is, it hasn’t really become a project yet, so why not make photographs I like, and see what they can become? I happen to love the expressiveness of hands. They show what is valued, what is held dear, what present and what is absent. These images were made this past year, and I never put them together until now, but I want to see where this goes regardless of my “cliche” interests.

Here Comes The Sun.

Every year, when I long for spring after a winter that is dragging its feet, I listen to this.

Though I now live in Tempe, where the sun shines most of the time, this song always reminds me of new beginnings after a troubled time. I have worked form months on my thesis project, and now that it is nearly complete–along with my degree–this song strikes a feeling of hope and renewal. The ice is melting, and soon it will be time to go out into the warm, life-giving sun. ūüôā

Night Science: Making Loops

After several more weeks devoted to my Making Loops project, of knitting furiously and deliberating over photographs, the big week is already here. This week, my Bachelor of Fine Arts group thesis exhibition, Night Science, opened at Gallery 100. We spent the weekend fussing over measuring tape ¬†and griping over wall space, but those hours of work were not wasted. Last Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, dozens of gallery-goers floated amongst the artwork in our exhibition. A truly rewarding experience, to have so many friends, family, fellow students, and professors milling about and looking at our work. It’s one thing to have a teacher and class full of students look at the work in dull, florescent lights (yuck!)–and an entirely different thrill to have my pieces installed properly, with lovely lighting and space to move about. And, it was a great time to dress fancy and have my picture taken, for once!

Here are some of the pieces in progress:

The installation, accompanied by the following text:

A form takes shape from infinite fibers

stretched, twisted

loop after thousandth loop

holding tightly together

As I knit you into being

bathe you

bleach you

hang you to dry in the sun

and as I iron your wrinkles smooth

I become more like you

cleansed, pressed, sure of form

created and cared for with devoted hands

We cover each other

protect each other

refine each other

every existence as a loop

that wholly depends on those which are nearest

to its center

Though the show will be over tomorrow, this project is far from complete. I will likely be knitting and photographing women I love far into our future.

Fruits of Labor, and Far To Go

Last fall, in between long readings and writing research papers, I knitted during my down time. While watching movies or conversing with friends at the kitchen table, I created more than a dozen surfaces to print photographs on. After the majority of my final projects and exams were completed in early December, I had an entire weekend to spend at the nonsilver lab–printing. With so many hours invested in each piece, the risk of failing is high for each print, and the larger the print, the more time invested and the more that could go wrong in the process. Though not all prints could be considered successful, I was able to refine the process and create a continuous workflow to maintain the highest efficiency possible. All the time invested in each print made the final stages nerve-wracking and entirely thrilling, so¬† I couldn’t help but document the changes with my cell phone camera:

Though I made a huge amount of progress by making so many prints, I have chosen to continue this project for my BFA thesis exhibition, which means I need to make several more large prints. Since printing these I have been knitting constantly, photographing more women who are anchors in my life, and have been preparing to print more. The prints for the show will be 13 x 19 and 18 x 24.

More updates and sneak peaks to come!

You’re What You Own.

When ever I feel over my head, usually around final exams as it is now, I listen to this song from RENT. It caught my attention in the film and in the play as the pivoting point of the story, when everything was falling apart and resolution seemed out of reach. But it had to come to that point of ruin for the characters to reconcile, and for their friendships and loving relationships to be renewed.

Here’s a link to the song on opening night, on broadway:

Here’s a link to the film version, recorded almost 10 years later:

Both are amazing performances, though of course I prefer to watch these two live!

 

On the Faux-Vintage Imaging Trends.

When the hipstamatic and instagram apps came out, I was simultaneously enthusiastic at the photo-geekishness of the options, and saddened by the gimmicking of well known gimmicks.

This article both articulates those thoughts and expands on them:

http://owni.eu/2011/06/02/the-faux-vintage-photo/

The effect that has grabbed my attention the most is one that mimics the brushstrokes at the edges of a photograph printed with liquid chemistry, such as Van Dyke, cyanotype, platinum–but none of these processes become anything other than monochrome. What frustrates me is that people use these apps without any interest in where they came from, or in doing the work to actually use the process that inspired that particular effect.

I support the collision of analogue and digital with all my might, but sometimes the conflict yields more fashionable trends than it generates a desire to learn or an appreciation for the genuine. Oh, the problems of photography nerds!

Going Big.

This week I’m going big!
I got myself some sz 7 bamboo circular needles at Michael’s at half price after Thanksgiving.
So, for the past couple of days, when I find a spare moment, I’ve been knitting in the flat. With this technique I can make very large rectangles without having two foot long needles. These rectangles are to make cyanotype prints (of photographs) –this one will be about 12 x 18 inches.
Now I need to figure out which portrait to print on a larger scale, but I think I am going to need to shoot more. A lot more.

As You Sleep.

As I have spent most of my recent weeks bogged down by reading, writing, researching, and studying, I have been craving a breath of fresh inspiration. So, a good friend and I decided to take an afternoon and head over to one of our favorite galleries, Art Intersection. Located in Gilbert, Arizona, Art Intersection is a new space that exhibits work from emerging and established artists, facilitates a variety of workshops available to the public, and it recently opened a historical processes lab. (http://artintersection.com/)

Several shows are open in the gallery, including the First Annual Silent Auction in the West Gallery and Lobby. The other works compose the show Art & Giving, open until December 23, including:  Kanchi, a series of platinum/palladium prints of underwater photographs, in the East Gallery (by itself a reason to drive all the way to Gilbert); and three groups of prints by Mark Osterman & France Scully Osterman in the North Gallery.

What I will discuss further is the series “Sleep” by France Scully Osterman. For more information on the artist, visit this link:¬†http://www.collodion.org/bio.html ¬† For a statement of her process for this series, and more images in this series, visit this link: ¬†http://www.collodion.org/Sleep.html

Even a vague understanding of the artist’s working process for this series is essential to appreciation of the work. In her statement, she explains that each person photographed is a loved one, friend, or acquaintance, who comes to her studio to sleep. She makes prepares the chemistry and glass plate negatives, composes the image, and exposes the 8 x 10 inch negative as the subjects sleep. Later, she makes contact prints, using the hand-applied salt printing process, and exposes them in the sun before development. Sunlight is somewhat predictable, but its consistency is very limited, so each print is unique in tonality and varies slightly in color. Finally, the prints are waxed to give a luscious, smooth matte surface.

As I approached this side of the gallery, I knew immediately that I would want to write about this work. The prints are 8 x 10 inches, so even from across the room I could make out the soft light and relaxed figures. The concept initially seems quite simple–photograph people in the studio while they sleep. But as one gazes at the visions of sleeping people, they each conveyed a peacefulness that even suggests eternal sleep. The subjects are not photographed in secret or anonymously–they have some personal connection to their watcher. Though this is explained in the artist’s statement presented with the series, it is evident in the care that is taken in the making of each negative, in the careful composition, in the proximity of camera to subject, in the long 45 second exposures.

The artist follows several of the typical conventions of historical process art photography. She photographs subjects in a studio, uses an 8 x 10 camera that holds her glass plate negatives, leaves a boarder of exposed salt around the image, ¬†and makes her mastery of the medium clear in every inch of the prints. On the other hand, the artist does not hide the process of creation from the viewer, as do many who work in historical processes. There are inconsistencies around the edges, and even visible brushstrokes that indicate the nature of the liquid chemistry on paper. Each print contains subtle tonal shifts and incredible detail–but are not altogether sharp due to subtle movements of the subjects during long exposures.

One of the most appealing aspects of this series is the artist’s process of negative creation and recording while subject is unconscious. The nature of this method is altogether intimate, yet voyeuristic. Though in observing every detail of the visual presence of the sleeper, the sleeper and observer each exist in a separate headspace–one of dreams, the other of process, action, contemplation.

There are two problems with the series and its presentation at Art Intersection. The first is the misuse of the word “document” to characterize the recording of sleepers. This word, “document”, implies clinical objectivity, but this is not the intent or result of this series. Though there is a particular structure in the repeated method of creating the negative and exposing it while the subjects sleep in the studio, the subjects are loved ones, friends, acquaintances. The resulting prints express a tenderness and emotional bond with their soft focus and warm tones. The subjects appear in a spiritual realm apart from the observer and the viewer. The viewer is aware that the photographs are constructed in a studio, however the subjects are not posed–they sleep in any position without any further direction, allowing the honesty expressed by the subconscious to remain unhindered. The subjects in the first image of the series are a man and woman sleeping in a comfortable embrace. The photograph is not an objective documentation of the positions of the body while sleeping, but a subjective representation of the peacefulness and closeness of the couple, revealed by their gestures as they sleep.

German artist Bettina von Zwehl photographed people in a studio doing different actions that disarmed them and stripped them of their ability to control their appearance. She photographed them individually, asked them to wear certain colored clothing, and agree to perform certain tasks. She photographed them each after physically exerting themselves; while they tried to hold their breath, and finally, after they were abruptly woken up. The subjects were photographed with bright studio lights, in color with a white background, and instantaneously. The intent was to catch them in a moment of simulated vulnerability, and to document it in a strictly objective manner.

(visit her site and click on Untitled One and Untitled Three: http://www.bettinavonzwehl.com/main.html)

Zwehl’s photographs are empty of any sentimentality or personal connection between subject and photographer. Their gestures are awkward and strained, recorded in every detail with unforgiving clarity. Her subjects were treated similarly to Osterman’s–they were invited to the studio and asked to do a simple task. But it is obvious that the resulting photographs speak about entirely different ideas: Zwehls are invasive studies of form an action under specific conditions, void of any indication of her own emotions, and intentionally portray a scientific procedure. Osterman’s photographs are very expressive, reveal the relationships of persons photographed, are diverse in composition and subject demographic, and if viewed out of context the viewer might not even guess that the subjects were photographed in the artist’s studio. Osterman’s work also references the conventions of art history with reverence, while Zwehl’s forsakes them.

Secondly, The only image that is a stranger to the others is the last, a female nude who rests on her side in Solitude, 12 of 13. The composition of the form and the fluidity of tones are quite elegant, but compared with the other prints, appears simply as a traditional nude still life in a studio.

The use of a nude does not necessarily imply intimacy, especially in this case, where the camera is farther from the subject. The curvature of the body mimics the folds of the drooping sheets. The subject is on a bed–but there is no indication that she is certainly asleep. She appears as a model, not a loved one. ¬†The graceful tones of her body contrasting with the dark room behind does portray a calmness,¬†but the viewer has no sense of her unconsciousness, or the passage of time in the way of the other photographs. It separates itself from the others in its treatment of the subject in that it shows a complete unclothed body with no facial expression. This image, though identical in method to the others and executed with the same precision and delicacy, is purely aesthetic and does not convey the sensibility of the individual as the other photographs do.

With all this said, the photographs from this series are at once comforting and contemplative. They depict one of the physiological phenomena that all people experience, that of sleep.