Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Joyce P. Lopez

This month we are exhibiting the work of Joyce P. Lopez in conjunction with The Alternative Approach. We were first introduced to Lopez’s work when she showed in our Creatures exhibition in March 2013. We fell in love with her series The Trouble With Birds and are presenting a solo exhibition of the work. Lopez has granted us an interview about her work and process.

Joyce at the opening reception of The Trouble With Birds.

You are both an artist and an advocate. Beyond the aesthetics, there is an environmental and political message to your work. What issues are you discussing with The Trouble With Birds and how do you feel your work has impacted the way people think about these issues?

Hopefully, I can add my one small voice to the voices of many that are trying to call attention to the destruction of our planet and what it really means for all of us.  Scientists are saying that in these next 20 years, it will become extremely apparent and probably too late to make important changes in how we use the earth.  Birds are a metaphor for all of us on the planet.  They contribute much to our food production with helping to control the insect population, for example.  If birds are exterminated, we will soon follow since all ecosystems are connected. Habitat protection is of great importance for all creatures and plant life. 

Upon close examination, bird's scarred beaks attest to a difficult life often with lengthly migrations in search of food. Poignantly, they often have insects still locked in their beaks when they have died while feeding. Though these birds have lost their lives, it gives me great pleasure to hold them in my hands feeling their still, warm bodies. This allows me to study them, and truly appreciate each feather, face, feet and other aspects of their bodies.  I hope the viewer has a feeling of intimacy when viewing these images.

Cardinal Foot

You have a background in sculpture and fiber arts and have received many public art commissions for your sculpture. How does that background influence your photography?

When I lived in Denmark, I became interested in fiber.  At that time, people were weaving and making pillows mostly, as well as simple wall hangings.  I bought a large, beautiful, hand made loom in Copenhagen and started weaving.  Soon I wanted change in my work and tried to make my it more graphic in design then what I was seeing at the time. I moved "off loom" and chose to use chromed steel tubes that I hand wrapped with French thread.  Leaving some areas unwrapped with the chrome gleaming through, I worked out complicated designs using positive and negative areas resulting in these unique sculptures.  This technique with the combined hard/soft materials became my style at the time and resulted in many commissions and exhibition opportunities including Latvia and China.  In this work AND in my photography, my work remains graphically strong devoid of the superfluous in order to focus on the most important.  I have my own self imposed rules for all my work and adhere to these in all the work I do.

Wren Head

The Trouble With Birds is a cameraless series. How did you come to use the scanner for this project and what are its benefits over a traditional camera?

I live on a pretty tight budget and while I have camera/lens envy for much of the equipment I can't afford, I looked for an alternative for achieving the appearance and resolution of images that I wanted.  Also, I was able to isolate the objects, against a black or white background in a classical, painterly style but as "still lives/still lifes".  However,  I do lots of other work with the camera, that supports the look and message for that subject matter. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III.  I love moving between these spaces depending on the voice I need to use.

 Two Cedar Waxwings

Please explain why you choose to incorporate a rich black background into your work? Why do you isolate your subjects in this way and how do you feel your photographs connect to that style of painters?

I use the black background for maximum contrast.  As I said, I want the viewer to just look at the bird, in this case, and have nothing else to compete for the viewers attention. "Look at this, give it your full consideration!"  How often to we pay attention to anything this closely.  Nothing in the background, no sound, nothing.  Completely still.  There is a connection to 17th century painters but there is always something odd about my images.  It is perfectly imperfect, not just in death but in how it is positioned, cropped or placed.  A wabi sabi sort of thing.  Beauty in imperfection. 


Where do you find inspiration outside of photography?

I find lots of inspiration in nature.  Being an extremely curious person, I am always questioning.  I am not a "birder" for example and don't pretend to be an expert on them, but I am learning.  The same with  lichen and fungus, plants, etc. and so I learn with everything that interests me enough to photograph whatever.  Cutting edge dance, performance, films, books on all subjects are also of interest to me as is the work of other photographers. Honestly, how they think is what fascinates me more than the end product. Thankfully, I have never had a "dry" period which I credit to curiosity and working many, many hours at my craft.   Other interests of mine are medicine, flying, botany, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and so many other things.  I have lived in Europe and Africa which has had huge influences on how I look at life in a more "world citizen" sort of way. My "Earth Series" references that.

Baltimore Oriole

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, how do you define success in art?

How do I define success?  That's complicated and simple at the same time.  First, my art must satisfy me.  I have high criteria for myself and many images don't make it.  And if my work engages the viewer and makes them more mindful, then I have succeeded.  If the work sells, then I have some money for new materials, etc.  Affirmation in any form is important.

Joyce P. Lopez’s series The Trouble With Birds is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through March 1. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Alternative Approach Winners: Michelle Rogers Pritzl

Juror’s Choice winner Michelle Rogers Pritzl found a burgeoning love of art in painting and drawing at young age. But it was when she took photography classes in high school that she “fell in love with the magic of watching latent images appear in a developer tray under the safelights.” Perhaps because of her background in painting, Pritzl has always been more interested in a hands-on approach to photography than in the digital environment that is common today. While attending the Corcoran College of Art and Design, Pritzl began her first experiments in hand-applied emulsions with cyanotypes and Van Dyke Brown. After completing a wet plate collodion workshop in 2010, she moved into the tintype process used in her most recent series, Soma.

Juror's  Choice: With Shamefacedness

The images in Soma are metaphoric self-portraits that reference specific memories of Pritzl’s past. “For me, the photographs speak of our common human experience of trying to heal from painful experiences and the processes we put ourselves through.” To fully realize the autobiographical nature of the work, Pritzl delved into a new way of working by using herself as the model. Her natural discomfort in front of the camera emphasizes both the difficult situations she alludes to and the physical discomfort depicted by images of wounds, self-harm, and vulnerability. While tip-toeing around specific experiences in her past, Soma explores, “the inner workings of trying to walk away from our pasts. The healing process can be brutal, our wounds leave scars—the imagery is a physical representation of that process.”

Citing artistic influences as varied as Joel Peter Witkin, Edvard Munch, and Frida Kahlo, Pritzl leans heavily on her background in drawing and painting. Fittingly, a typical shoot for her begins with pen on paper.  Before she even picks up a camera, time is spent with her sketchbook. In this space Pritzl works through her jotted-down ideas, journal entries, and sketches until finding the right visual metaphor to illustrate her concept. She then makes a digital exposure and composites in Photoshop before printing tintypes in the darkroom. This multi-step process results in surreal and dreamlike work that transports the viewer into a landscape of someone else’s memories.

Now in the last year of her MFA program, Pritzl has had great success exhibiting her work alongside other artists whom she admires. While balancing a heavy class and exhibition schedule is challenging, she has succeeded in finding opportunities to present her work to a larger audience. Mostly, Prizl considers herself fortunate to be able to follow her artistic passion. “Success for me means that I am continuing to make work that interests me and that I can share and exhibit with my audience.”

The Alternative Approach is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through March 1, 2014.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Alternative Approach Winners: Danielle Ezzo

Juror’s Choice winner for The Alternative Approach, Danielle Ezzo speaks about her evolution into alternative process photography.

What first drew you to alternative process photography?

The beginning of photography is inextricably tied to the evolution of drawing and the desire to harness representation better. In it's advent some of the first photographs were displayed at magic shows because the idea that we could render something with such accuracy took on a mythical quality. Now that feeling is kind of lost, at least for me, with contemporary photographic practices. So I enjoy working firstly with something that I can affect with my hands, but also that there is this inherent alchemy to creating work with historical processes. It brings me back in time and taps into other histories. I want to tap into the magic that what I'm creating hasn't been seen before, that it may even evoke a sense of confusion in them. "How is that photography?" is the response that I strive for. Sometimes I find that with these processes.

Juror's Choice image: Two Women

Walk us through a typical shoot from conception to execution. How much planning is involved and what is your creative thought process?
My photographs have become quite contrived at every stage of the process. There is a lot of planning, thinking, and testing that goes into a single image. Often times I have a scene in my head already with a specific person and set of objects. I'll shoot the image and adjust and tweak things on the fly if the image doesn't seem to convey what I was originally hoping. Then, I will print out a digital negative and draw directly onto it to create the networks of lines and nodes, then printed out in whichever process I'm working with. In the case of Two Women, salt printing. In my newest works I'm playing around with printing out digital prints, overpainting, rescanning, and printing out as a digital negative. There are many different steps and technologies along the photo continuum, as I tend to use the medium more holistically. I like the idea of being an anti-chronologist when it comes to photography and not getting too caught up in a specific time period.

Eternal Return

Why did you choose salt prints as the medium for this series?

In the series Kindred Systems and Invisible Cities, I wanted the work to have an antique feel and reference the very beginnings of photo history. The cross over between the camera lucida era of drawing to the Fox Talbot's era of salt was fascinated to me as a paradigm shift of looking at how we reproduce what we see differently. I also wanted to connect these outdated methods with the outdated methods of how we define kin.

How do the superimposed geometric lines and shapes add to the piece? What is their significance?
The constellation-like aspects of the images are my interpretations of social networks; lines connecting people and forming families and community bodies.

Constellation 1
Tell us more about this series. What was its evolution? How did it begin and how did you move into cameraless work?

Invisible Cities is my way of trying to visualize this process that I've been going through of redefining what the terms 'family' and 'love' mean. We build social circles of people dear to us that know our adult selves, which over time may actually understand us better than our blood family. How those people become friends, and in turn, new families, and expand. I'm endlessly fascinated with the development of these circles and how they continue to weave together and morph over time.

I began taking portraits of the people most directly in my life and felt that generating the cameraless "constellations" was a better way of visualizing this interconnectivity. I also enjoy when photography does something unexpected, and I try to push the bounds of what is considered acceptable in the medium. It's breaking point is what I find interesting. The most successful works to me are those that incorporate the social connections as well as the representational attributes.

Lovingly Distant

Your subjects exude a sense of vulnerability. How does this tie into the theme of the work?

Invisible Cities is my way of attempting to visualize the interpersonal interconnectivity in my life. How this also ties into my slow, systematic approach of trying to redefine the constructs of love and kin. All the people that I photograph are people who are close to me, have a special place in my life, or affected me in an emotional sense. Most of them are not "models", but friends and lovers. It takes a great amount of vulnerability to be photographed by someone, especially nude. There is an inherent vulnerability to the work not only because they are baring their bodies, but because somehow I'm trying to expose what it means for me to love these people in the nuanced ways that I do.

Constellation 2

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success in art mean to you? 
The term 'success' is very slippery for me. It holds different values even when I think about art. What I consider successful within my art? What is success within my career?  What is success within my own contentment of making things? I have different answers for all of those things. To try and answer this simply: I want the majority of my time to revolve around making these images. If I can get to a place where this is feasible I will feel pretty successful. I'm pretty close.

The Alternative Approach is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through March 1.