Cathy's Orchid

Cathy’s Orchid

A feast of lumen prints are showcased in the newly opened Salon at A Smith Gallery in Johnson City, Texas. Lumen, an exhibition showcasing this feast of alternative photography, includes Cathy’s Orchid, a digital print made from a handmade negative created by using a Lumen Print process. The exhibition dates are 11 March to 16 May. Two receptions will be held: 25 March and 30 April (4 – 7 pm). An exhibition catalogue available from Blurb is forthcoming.

Lumen prints are photograms made by a contact print process using organic materials that leave traces and shadows on photosensitive surfaces. These unique prints are made without a camera or darkroom enlarger. These materials transmit enzymes that interact with the surface of the paper, leaving X-ray like marks of both their shapes and interiors. Lumen prints on sheet film can be scanned and processed as digital prints. Artists experimenting with this process include Jerry Burchfield, Adam Fuss and the artists showing work in Lumen.

Frozen

Frozen

I’ve been gifted this review of my current series: Salton Sea Eco-Disaster — I cannot look away.

 

The Salton Sea Eco-Disaster – I cannot look away
One of the most provocative and insightful bodies of artwork in the Telling Stories: a visual art exhibition is a series of photographs by Phyllis Schwartz. Although a great deal of her work is more abstract in nature and rooted in the historical techniques of photographic image making, this series is a departure for her. The images are very monochromatic and stark as well as being rivetingly close to their subject matter.

What has caused this departure, especially when the work has been simmering since the winter of 2011? Having witnessed the ecological destruction on the shores of the Salton Sea, California’s largest body of water, the images were just too graphic and unworldly. How does a visual artist work with a set of images that seem implausible, yet at the same time so captivating? What are the implications of creating a series around these images that wander between a work of art, a statement of witnessing and a political commentary on our economically driven ecological disasters?

Vacant

Vacant

In the end one cannot really look away, as Phyllis Schwartz expresses in her subtitle, without becoming even more complicit than one already is creating these images. To look away is to do what is so often done, to pretend we are not part of the problem. We are collectively the authors of this series; even in Vancouver, the food grown in this area that flows 15,000 tons of phosphorus and nitrogen into this landlocked sea is the food we shop for on our grocery shelves. The cars we drive that are made in Mexico in the maquiladoras just across the border, emit a toxic stew mixed with sewage, and this flows down hill across the border into the Salton Sea. This artificial river is now the most toxic waterway in North America, we should not be looking away.

Schwartz’s images are simple yet draw in the viewer; they are micro-compositions of areas no larger than a dessert plate. Abstract in presentation and mostly black and white with hints of colour, one can not help but think of Edward Weston’s work and the intimacy he expressed with the objects he photographed. Yet the images are not as subtitle, and unlike Weston, the images are much less rooted in the post modern culture that favours irony while making allusions to knowledge. It also seems to lash out at the pseudo-modern world of around us where iPhones and social media often gives the impression that one is immersed when often one is overtaken or swallowed up.

Desiccated

Desiccated

As the viewer moves from one image to another, one begins to feel that something is amiss. What is the magnitude of the dead barnacles beach? Why are the fish mostly unconsumed by the other wild life in the area? Why have they not been cleaned up by local inhabitants? Having chosen to work at such an intimate range, the work hints at the extent of the problem without graphically showing the masses of dead fish that actually litter the shoreline. The artist here is reflecting our tendency to minimize and reduce things down so we do not see the scale of the problem. One cannot look away, but one does not want to see the scale, a scale might prove too challenging. The softness and almost abstract forms allow one to at momentarily escape before the mind lurches back to what is being presented. It moves the viewer to search out the subtext and the footnotes of this ecological metaphor of our current age.

Edward Peck (15 November 2015)

Edward Peck

On the Wall Series, photographed in Germany in 2015, will be part of the Telling Stories:a visual art exhibition opening on the 7th of November 2015. The exhibition will include photography, painting, sculpture, fibre art and other installations. It will feature the following nine artists: Alison Keenan, Phyllis Schwartz, Jim Friesen, Daphne Harwood, Sophi Liang, Colette Lisoway, Edward Peck, Debra Sloan and June Yun.

This is the BestB4 Collective’s latest exhibition, and it is graciously hosted by the Chinese Cultural Centre in their On-Tak Cheung Exhibition Gallery.

Opening: Saturday, November 7, 2015

Location: 555 Columbia Street

Regular Hours: 11:am – 5pm (Tue-Sat), Nov 7th – Dec 19

For Special Hours and Events see BestB4Collective’s Blog

For more information please go to the BestB4 Collective’s events page:
http://bestb4collective.blogspot.ca/p/events.html )

A Brief Word About the Series

My artist practice has always been about teaching myself to see. While walking around Berlin and Hamburg, I noticed that…

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Telling Stories: a visual art exhibition, a new exhibition presented by the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver in collaboration with the BestB4 Collective, opens at the On-Tak Cheung Gallery at the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum on Saturday, 07 November, 2015 from 2 – 4pm.

This new  BestB4 Collective project is a collaboration with nine visual artists and community members; the gallery is transformed into a meeting place where photography, painting, ceramics, fibre and installations tell and evoke stories. Salton Sea Eco-Disaster — I Cannot Look Away, my Salton Sea photo-graphic story, will be on show in this exhibition.

In the Winter of 2011, I made my second photo-exploration of the Salton Sea in Southern California to continue my study of the environmental impact of the local economy on the region and am now working toward a return to the area for a future photographic project. This eco-disaster is complex: as this salt lake dehydrates, the toxins from the Mexicali-Calexico food industry and computer industry contaminants concentrate, which in turn kills the fish, birds and plant life. As a result, the shore of the Salton Sea is ringed with layers of dead fish and birds; the stench of dead marine life hovers over a series of ghost towns built with the intention of a recreational paradise in the desert.

My work in this area has only begun. It is simultaneously seductively surreal and an outrage. I use the photographic process as an investigative tool. The process of photography reveals detail and texture. I seek universals, digging beneath the surface for invisible truth, open to the optical unconscious revealed by my camera. In my quest for the poetic, my photography addresses the nature of permanence and impermanence by asking, “What remains?”

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More about the Best B4 Collective 
More community events

Telling Stories — a visual art exhibition, my most recent Best B4 Collective project co-curated with Alison Keenan, presents the work of nine Vancouver artists telling stories in a variety of media. We have selected artists who both tell stories about contemporary issues and push the boundaries of their artistic medium. The exhibition opens 07 November at the On-Tak Gallery in the Chinese Cultural Centre and runs through 19 December.

Urban and environmental issues are the predominant themes running through the stories in this exhibition. Alison Keenan uses scale to tell visual stories about the territorial clash between avian and human creatures. Edward Peck’s photographs zoom into Berlin graffiti to re-tell the on-going stories found in the urban streetscape. My Salton Sea series pictures surreal environmental devastation caused by the food and computer industries situated on the US-Mexican border.

New to the Best B4 Collective are six artists who tell stories using fibre and installation art. Daphne Harwood uses the quilting medium to document urban transformation where once stood Imagination Market on the north shore of False Creek. Sophi Liang installs a ladder which holds traditional books to deconstruct traditional Chinese cultural values transplanted in a new cultural landscape. Colette Lisoway’s multi-screen prints build up a new image of a multicultural society in a rapidly changing community.

Uncanny stories are told in sculpture, painting and photography, stories that reframe the issues of environmental, urban and cultural conflict. Debra Sloan’s sculptures freeze tense, mischievous moments. June Yun’s paintings might look like misty Chinese countryside landscapes, but they are in fact stories of pollution that causes a nuclear winter. The tension in Jim Friesen’s stormy skies tell stories about the cycle of tension and release, a metaphor for many of the issues presented in the stories in this exhibition.

Each weekend, free community events will be offered to the public, and during the week, participating artists will be working with students in the community who visit the exhibition.  Further details are found on the Events Page of the Best B4 Collective Blog.

Papergirl Vancouver
One of my favourite events. It’s about sharing. It’s about gifting. It’s like sending out a message in a bottle. This year my work is being distributed Mexico, Bristol, Hannover and Vancouver.

All of the artwork submitted to Papergirl Vancouver will be lovingly placed on display at the Roundhouse Community Centre for a week before riders head out on their bikes to spread art throughout the city.

Join the celebration of another year of art and altruism on Monday, August 24th at 6pm at the Roundhouse Community Centre!

Papergirl Vancouver 2015 Offerings

Two of my vintage analogue Lumen Prints have been selected for auction at ArtBeat Vancouver. Works by fifty up-coming and established local artists have been curated by Lynn Ruscheinsky and will be auctioned at ArtBeat 2015 this Saturday, 25 July at the Belkin Residence (7349 Blenheim Street), 4 – 10 pm.  Event details and ticket purchase details can be found at ArtBeat/Events.

Both Lumen Prints from the Spanish Banks Series were previously exhibited at the in the Emily Carr Awards Exhibition at the Winsor Gallery. These works are early explorations of the Lumen Print process using materials gathered from the seashore.

ArtBeat 2015 is a fund raising event for the expansion of Esther’s Place, a safe house for women fleeing domestic violence, as well as Little Footprints/Big Steps, a charity founded to aid rescuing children from situations of abuse, slavery, homelessness or severe neglect. More details can be found at ArtBeat/The Cause. 

Spanish Banks Impressions 13 (Lumen Print on fibre, unique photogram)

Spanish Banks Impressions 13 (Lumen Print on fibre, unique photogram)

Fan Coral (Lumen Print on Fibre, unique photogram)

Fan Coral (Lumen Print on Fibre, unique photogram)

Screenshot 2015

Screenshot 2015

Mobile phones have become a notebook of sorts; they store images and fragmented memories, keep a phone call and text log, store data, track appointments and whole lot more. For a photographer, the fully loaded mobile phone is the notebook I’ve been waiting for. I can use it standing up, lying back or hunkering down without awkwardly searching for something to write with when the visual thought is in front or behind me, just about to disappear as the train is leaving the station. With a little planning, I have access to tools to work on stored images and maybe even prepare them for publication. I’m not much of a speech to text person, but I can dictate thoughts that take the shape of words or keep those words as a soundtrack. This is not to say that it replaces the coil bound artist notebook that is central to my artist practice; I have three crates of artist notebooks, and there’s no sign that that habit of visual journaling will be replaced by my mobile phone. But finally, there’s a notebook for photographers.

From time to time, I sing the praises of Aline Smithson, creator, editor and publisher of Lenscratch, photographer, writer and teacher. I read her blog daily, and it fuels my artist practice on many levels. I appreciate her seasonal calls for submissions to her theme-based blog exhibitions and look forward to visual content and editing/curating, offering a reading of these juxtaposed images that adds up to way more than the sum of the parts. A recent LENSCRATCH blog featured five pages of cellphone photography and included one of my cellphone photographs. Set among other cellphone photographs, I read my work in a new way.

Scrolling through LENSCRATCH 2015 Cellphone Exhibition, this blog emerged, and writing about my own work is always more laboured than this one. It was an inspirational series of images that illustrates how versatile the cellphone and cellphone camera can be. I am one of many who believe that technology and the economics of the cellphone camera have democratized photography, making cellphone photography a genre in its own right. While I began celebrating the notebooking opportunities of the cellphone, I end with a statement about the potential of the cellphone to make photography both immediate and contemplative, complex and spontaneous. View my Screenshot in isolation in this blog, but also view it in the context of the Lenscratch 2015 Cellphone Exhibition. 

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Three of my sketchbooks are on the Sketchbook Project Summer Tour. This year’s tour kicks off at the Brooklyn Art Library on Friday, 05 May and then travels to nine tour stops in North America.  Sketchbook Project tours are fun: in addition to checking out and reading artist made books, there are also drawing and postcard writing activities.

On board this year are two new sketchbooks and one classic. Find your closest city, check out some sketchbooks and let me know what you think. Summer Tour Schedule

Big Wheels is a girl’s look at big wheels on roads, streets and sidewalks. It amazes me to think about how the wheel is one of six simple machines and how much complex technology is dependent on basic elements like a wheel. This book has been to Chicago, NYC, Bloomington, Ocean Shores, Iceland, Denmark and Germany. It traveled many miles to get to you.

Songs for the Accordion was inspired by the accordion book form and wanting to make a unique book that could visualize song and dance. Music threads through a landscape of colour and leaves notes to play and replay. Marks on paper were made using Procion dye, acrylic ink, charcoal, thread, acrylic medium and white glue. Of all the books made for the Sketchbook Project, this was the most difficult to send away.

My Brooklyn Childhood — a memoir has been on many Sketchbook Project Tours, including Art Basel. It is a compilation of my father’s memoirs and memory drawings. It brings together work that my father talked about but never achieved: illustrating the many stories he told. His memory drawings open a new understanding of his Brooklyn boyhood, and the Brooklyn Art Library is a fitting location for this first edition. This book is also available from Blurb

View these and my other Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbooks on line.

I am writing this blog so I can learn to spell and understand pareidolia. In the 70s, I read an article in Scientific American that explained how the eye-brain constructed recognizable shapes from ambiguity. That information gave me insight into how visual art that compelled caused me to look again, and I was sure I would remember that word. I reached for that word many times, talking around it and hoped someone could fill in the gap in my knowledge. That gap was filled in conversation following one of my Facebook posts during  the  Black and White Photo challenge this September. Now in a time when access to this kind of information is only a few keystrokes away, I am able to fill in that gap.

Pareiolia explains why we see the man in the moon, dragons in clouds, faces (especially eyes) in tree bark and projected imagery in reflective surfaces. This rediscovery of this word and this phenomenon gives both an explanation for my fascination with abstract Lumen Print compositions and a context for my artist process. Artwork, music and literature that offer multiple valid readings have always attracted me;  my favourites continue to invite another layer of meaning. My Lumen Prints that render smaller ambiguous pareidoltric artifacts engage my viewers and often spark interesting conversation. I look again.

Bladderwrack and Rainwater (2010)

Bladderwrack and Rainwater (2010)

One of my most enduring compositions, Mother and Child, was an early starting point in my Lumen Print artist practice. When I look at this Lumen Print, I see a goat like figure and a playful calf nuzzling up affectionately to a protective figure, a mother to my way of looking at it; I want to see a Mother and Child, and a reach into the photograph for more imagery to complete that story. Others might see darkened outlines of familiar seaweed shapes: bladderwrack, sea lettuce and the potassium deposits made by sheets of Lamenaria left out in the rain. My early Lumen Print work was essentially creative botanical documentation. I discovered the X-Ray like marks in Lumen Prints  yield more information than in botanical drawings; these Lumen Print documents simultaneously photograph the interior and exterior of the specimen. When I freed these materials from their orthodox portraiture and used these materials in the markmaking process,  then landscapes and narratives emerged. Instead of Lamenaria and Bladderwrack resting on photosensitive surfaces for a portrait, they were telling stories.

Sea Shells and Rainwater (lumen lith printed from a handmade negative, 2010)

Sea Shells and Rainwater (lumen lith printed from a handmade negative, 2010)

Wanting to go beyond the discoveries of the botanists who were among the first to discover a photographic process for recording visual information in their notations, I turned to an exploration of the capacity of sheet film in Lumen Printing.  A 4 x 5 inch block of sheet film does not leave much space for composition, a challenge when I was composing organic material on photo paper that measured 16 x 20 inches. I was curious to find out how much detail sheet film would record for printing and projecting in large format. Sea Shells and Rainwater was my first handmade negative; I positioned a small handful of crushed seashells on sheet film and exposed it to an afternoon of hazy light. This negative was digitized and developed much the way I worked in an analogue darkroom: amplifying light and tonal values. I worked on this image until it came to life: when a pair of eyes appear and a life form took shape on a green colour field. In digital format, I am able to show X-Ray layers in much the same way they appear in analogue Lumen Prints.

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Recent Lumen Prints, both analogue and digital, tell pareidolic stories: Caribou posing for a portrait, momento mori in What Remains from gathering foliage in New York, possible life forms Among Cherry Blossoms, a portrait emerging from Chesterman Beach sea tangles. And more at Sassamatt Images.

Art Rental Show — two of my recent Lumen Prints have been added to the Cityscapes Art Rental collection and will be on show in their salon syle exhibition. Thursday, 08 January, 7 – 9 PM (Cityscapes, 355 Lonsdale, North Vancouver).

Truth and Beauty DoorCrasher Special— offers Limited Edition Prints (Desert Salt, for example), OpenStock Prints and Loose Prints at discounted prices. One week only: 10 – 17 January (Noon – 5pm), 698 West 16th Avenue. Check out the Collective collection.

Winter Salon at Photohaus Gallery — WinterSalon continues thru January. Three of my Lumen Prints are on show in this exhibition. Two of these prints are analogue lumen prints; it is an exciting opportunity because (as far as I know) I am the only artist in Greater Vancouver working in this hybrid photo-printmaking medium. Check website for hours of opening and location.

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