Monday, April 28, 2014

Melanie Craven

The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to have Melanie Craven as juror for our upcoming exhibition, Fact and Fantasy. Melanie is a Co-owner of Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Here she speaks about her photography and gallery in her own words.

Tilt Gallery has an excellent reputation for showing outstanding works of alternative process photography. How has the gallery evolved since it opened and what are your goals for its future? 

Tilt Gallery was first envisioned as a shared lab and exhibition space. Within the first few months Tilt become a dedicated gallery space based on the need in our community for a gallery to support this very small niche of artists. It was our passion to keep hand applied processes alive by supporting contemporary artists working in the field. We made our own opportunities to exhibit many talented artists who are the best in their field to our photographic community.

Later as we became well known for our specialization in hand applied photographic processes, we slowing began to include other hand applied works of art included some mixed media fine art. One of our major goals was to better support our artists, increase sales for them and provide better exposure. We are happy to say that almost two years ago we made a move from Phoenix to Scottsdale and we are growing and doing more for our artists than ever before. We still have more we want to do like promote our photographers in some of the prominent art fairs and increasing our online presence. For us we are always looking to the future for new opportunities and potential markets.       

As co-owner of Tilt Gallery you have worked with many different artists and collectors. What is your approach for finding the right piece of art for a specific collector? 
For us there is not one simple method or approach to creating that connection for both our artists and clients. We try to approach this on an individual basis. We work side by side with our clients to understand what their interests are, what they gravitate toward and help them understand some of these hand applied processes, educating them on the unique process and style of each artist we represent. 

Identical Otherness series

You must receive many portfolio submissions. What is it that you look for when contacted by artists looking for representation?  
We want to know if they did their research. Is Tilt a good fit for both their work and our aesthetics. When we represent and artist not only does their work need to be strong but that it flows with the work of the gallery. Artists need to understand that there is a consistency of aesthetics that we need to maintain for the galleries Identity. Beyond that we always look for a balanced, consistent portfolio presentation, with strong images that work as a body or stand alone.   

What is your pet peeve when an artist contacts you looking for representation? 

Like we talked about in the previous question, a lack of research and understanding of what we do as a gallery. We are creating a team, that needs to compliment each other, as a gallery owners and artist but building a groups of artists work together.  

You must look at the work of emerging and mid-career artists constantly. How do you think that will impact your approach as a juror? 
I do see a variety artists work from emerging to mid-career that are very unique in their own way. More importantly being a photographer myself I can see where each artist is coming from, just starting out and hitting a spark within a body of work or with a seasoned photographer who is honing in and fine tuning a concept or challenging process.
Scar from series Inner Melanie

Describe your path to photography. What led you to it, where did you start, and how did you end up working with photo-mechanical processes? 

We have always been interested in photography as device in which we could capture a moment or memory. My twin Michelle and I received our BFA in photography at ASU in 2004 specializing in the photo-mechanical processes. During that time we began to think of the camera as a tool for expressing our perceptions and the hands on photo techniques we choose to work in as a mirror of the tool. After graduating we wanted to somehow continue our journey making images while at the same time creating an art community, that’s when Tilt Gallery was first concieved.  

Your series Identical Otherness is an exploration of your relationship with your twin sister, who is the other co-founder of the gallery. Tell us more about this work.

“Identical Otherness” stems from our curiosity about perceptions, similarities and differences.  Being an identical twin our work explores the uncommon and yet uniquely common perceptions of their life experiences.  Because of our "twinness" we have had the opportunity to encounter and experience our uncommon and yet uniquely common perceptions.  
Themes involving personal identity, similarity and difference, and the manifestation of unexplained happenings, provide a conceptual framework for our imagery. Being identical twins we are also mirror twins meaning one is right handed and the other is left. Growing up and even to this day our experiences follow one first then the other. Whether we are photographing individually or together the mystery and value of photography for us is its ability to communicate what might be uncommunicable through any other medium. 
All our photographic work we do  to this day always brings us back to our concept of  the Otherness.
Twin Cactus from series Identical Otherness

How has your experience as a curator affected you as an artist? 
Well, owning a gallery you see a lot of very inspirational work, excellent in quality and focused expression of the artists concepts. Of course along with coming across our desks is work that is not there, not ready. As curators we have stayed in touch and on the cutting edge of the dialog contemporary art and our ability to respond and push our ideas past that edge.  We look at the  new concept, a new approach to visual expression and remind ourselves to do the same.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Expressions Winners: Heather Perera

Director’s Choice winner, Heather Perera, has always had an affinity for the arts. From music to poetry, she always feels a strong connection with creative expression. Having gone through several rough periods in her life, channeling her feelings into expressive outlets has always brought her comfort, especially writing, which has been cathartic for her. “When I journal I am usually hashing something out, and because it's my journal, it's honest and raw.” As Perera began her photographic career, she found that photography could be a similar outlet. The ability to produce the same raw honesty made photography feel as natural as her writing:

I try to bring an honesty to my work, showing myself as authentically as possible. I tend to photograph some of the darker aspects of life, it's very intriguing to me. The crevice of the soul is beautifully rich and unfortunately, often hidden. There's a grace to opening up and revealing the pain, fear, doubt, shame, loneliness. My work is giving a voice to whatever I see and experience in life. And by giving a voice to my experiences or emotions they're released, like unlocking a caged bird.

Perera began photographing five years ago, after the birth of her son, Lucca. What began as a way to document his life eventually became a new passionate career. Though she had very little exposure to photography, she dove into the medium purchasing a DSLR and taking classes and workshops. Perera eventually connected with Aline Smithson, who has become her mentor. “For months she said, ‘you're on to something, but go deeper.’ She has a gift for gently pushing people towards their potential. One of my highest moments as an artist was when she told me she was proud of me.”


Her winning image, Cutting is a perfect example of delving deeper into the darker aspects of life she refers to. A small child (her son) holds a pair of sharp scissors uncomfortably close to his skin. Unafraid to infuse her photographs with discomfort, this moment just before cutting her son’s hair captivated her attention and she went for her camera to document it. The juxtaposition of his innocent wide-eyed expression and the impending danger of the sharp scissors has made some of the gallery’s visitors uncomfortable, yet portrays an honest portrait of childhood.

Although Perera has created other bodies of work, her son remains her favorite photographic subject. As her sophistication as a photographer has grown, simple snapshots have given way to a more detached and professional method. “With an active 5 year old, sometimes loading film, checking the light, etc. is not realistic and distracts from just enjoying my time with him. I have to remind myself that it's okay to document his life without being in control. It's a balance, but I'm so grateful I get to combine my two greatest passions, photography and Lucca.”

In addition to her personal work, Perera has built a substantial portrait photography business. Perera’s honest and uncontrived approach to portraiture carries over into her commercial work and has made it challenging to find a market. “As I become more honest in my personal work, it pushes me to want to be more honest in my business. The small moments, the messy kitchens, the half-dressed kids are beautiful, just as they are. I'm striving to build a business that peels away some of the ‘stuff’ and portrays the tenderness of family.” And in the end, that’s really what success means to Perera, “to continue to make honest work that pushes my own boundaries and by doing so, enabling me to financially support my son.”

Expressions: Contemporary Portraiture is on view through April 26, 2014.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Featured Artist: Lynsey Nelson

Three times per year The Kiernan Gallery presents a solo exhibition of a non-photographic artist in conjunction with a photographic group show. Our Spring Featured Artist is Lynsey Nelson exhibiting her relief prints.

How did you begin your artistic career? What was your evolution from photography to printmaking?

I began my artistic career at a very young age. Both of my parents are printmakers and actually met while in the Printmaking Lab at college. Ever since I can remember I have always had a paintbrush, camera or anything involving art in my hands. Until college I was never really involved in printmaking. For an elective course while earning my Bachelors in photography I took a printmaking class and immediately feel in love with it. I continued to take classes even after I graduated.

 Pierced Heart

Who are your artistic influences? Are there any particular artists working in printmaking or any other medium that have influenced this work?

My artistic influences come from all sorts of mediums like photographers Cindy Sherman, Diane Arbus and David Bailey; but also painters like Francis Bacon, Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo. I have always thought that inspiration doesn't just come from what you see, but also what you hear and what you read. I find inspiration in joys of reading or just looking outside. 

Gypsy Girl

Please explain the relief printmaking process and how your background in photography helps or inhibits the process.

When I first begin a block I draw out a general sketch of what I want the block to look like. However, I have to draw opposite of I how I want the final print to look, this is a process like film photography. Once the drawing is done I then carve out a piece of linoleum mounted onto a wood block. After the carving is finished the block is then inked, paper is laid on top and then together everything is run through the printing press. This produces my final Relief print.

 Tied to You

Where do you see your work fitting into contemporary art world?

I don't really know how or where my work fits into the contemporary art world, mainly because I do not really think that it does fit it. I mean, I play with gore, beauty, symbolism, patterns and so much more. Though I have not seen work quite like mine in the art world, some people have related them to tattoo artist prints, Dia de Muertos type work and such. However, I try and let people draw their own conclusions and thoughts from my work. I like the idea of leaving my work open and letting people discover their own meanings in my work.

Let There Be Bees

Your subject matter contains various iconography and day of the dead influences. Where do these influences come from and what are you hoping to communicate by incorporating them into your work?

Religious iconography has always fascinated me, especially since most historical art includes some type of religious figure. I grew up seeing all three days Dia de Muertos and I always fascinated by the alters, sculptures, face painting and etc. This celebration of death and is so different than other religions.  

Day of the Dead Girl

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success in art mean to you?

Success in art mean to me people enjoying my work, possibly learning something new and expanding their minds. 

Lynsey Nelson’s solo exhibition is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through April 26.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Expressions Winners: James Weber

Juror’s Choice winner James Weber fell into his photography career by accident. While studying to be a writer, Weber chose Photography 101 as his non-major elective. That choice completely altered his trajectory, embarking him on a new career. The expenses associated with photography at the time factored into his decision to join the Navy at 19.

"My family has a long history of military service. My grandfather mentioned that they have photographers in the Navy and that maybe I should look into it. So, I went down to my local Navy Recruiter’s office, took the test and told them I wanted to be a Navy photographer. They said they had never put one in. I told them to call me when they wanted to. Three months later, I was in boot camp. I did two tours in the Navy, three years in Japan, and three years in Hawaii. In that time, I had a lot of great experiences. I shot from helicopters, on submarines, from planes, and even a WWII Battleship. It was an amazing experience and great introduction into photography."
Juror's Choice, Anna I

After his time in the Navy, Weber began to make a name for himself as a commercial photographer, eventually growing a very successful business. While his commercial clients keep him busy these days, he continues to produce personal work, most recently working with tintype portraits. “I think to some degree, you don’t have a choice if one influences the other. Once you’ve been shooting for a while, some things become second nature. It’s a part of how you see the world. I’ve been told that some of my portraits have a ‘fashion’ feel about them. I’m sure that’s a crossover from my fashion work that I do.”

In recent years Weber searched for a way to incorporate more craft into photography. His discovery of wet plate collodion set him on a new path. He views photographic chemistry as a “powerful and somewhat magical thing” and is awed by the appearance of an image on sheet of tin. He enjoys the process immensely, finding beauty in the depth of the images and the act of making each object. Hand crafted and one-of-a-kind by nature, each plate is appreciated for its unique qualities. Weber also loves the relationship he develops with his subjects. “I also feel a connection with my subjects when I shoot large format wet plate that is subtlety different than when I shoot digitally. I think that the people I’m shooting feel there is something special about this too, and that affects how they are in front of the camera.”

Originally inspired to pursue this project by Renaissance painters, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli in particular, Weber also finds himself pushed to keep creating and innovating in his work by the community of artists around him in New York.  Many of his friends work in various mediums and are a constant source of inspiration to hone his craft and to continue creating and sharing his work.  And really, that is one of Weber’s definitions of success in art: “If I was able to continue creating my work, that would be the first part of success. I think that sharing my work with others is the other part of success. In sharing my work with others, I’m introduced to new, often wonderful people and experiences. That in turn, sometimes takes me off in a direction I had not thought of before.”

Expressions: Contemporary Portraiture is on view through April 26, 2014.