Monday, February 25, 2013

Announcement: New Call for Entry!

Portfolio Showcase 2013
Deadline: May 23
Exhibition: July 3 - 27
Opening Reception: July 5

Every photograph tells a story. When part of a body of work, the photograph takes on a new meaning, becoming part of a bigger and more complete narrative. A portfolio allows the photographer to explore the complexities of their subject, providing context that gives it richness and meaning greater than the sum of its parts. The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to announce its second annual portfolio showcase, juried by renowned photography critic Vicki Goldberg. For this exhibition, four photographers will be selected to show their complete bodies of work.
  • All photographs and artist statements will be reproduced in an exhibition catalogue.
  • All exhibiting photographers will be featured on The Kiernan Gallery’s blog and website.
  • An electronic show card will be designed and distributed by The Kiernan Gallery for each exhibiting artist.

Submission Guidelines:
  •  Submit a body of 10-15 images
  • Submit a written statement about the work (not more than one page)
  • Artists should be prepared to ship or deliver their work (ready to hang) to the gallery if selected.

All photographic media are encouraged.

About the Juror
Vicki Goldberg, one of the leading voices in the field of photography criticism, wrote about photography for the New York Times for thirteen years and has published several books and the texts for more than twenty-five photographic monographs.  One review of her latest book, The White House: The President's Home in Photographs and History, called it "a lovely way to invite people who are a little wobbly on their White House and presidential history to shore up some of their weaknesses, while learning a thing or two about how the medium of photography has shaped our identity and national perspective."  Her books The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed Our Lives and Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography were each named one of the Best Books of the Year by the American Library Association, and the anthology she edited, Photography in Print: Writings from 1816 to the Present, was cited in the Wall Street Journal in 2006 as one of the five best books ever written on photography. She has received numerous awards for writing, including the International Center of Photography's Infinity Award, the Royal Society's Dudley Johnston Award, and the Long Chen Cup (China).  Ms. Goldberg, who has taught courses at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York, the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Boston, lectures internationally and writes on photography for various magazines.

For more information

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Christa Bowden

This month we showed the work of Lexington’s own Christa Bowden in conjunction with Methods (Alternative). Bowden, a professor of photography at Washington and Lee University, granted us an interview on her newest work, Roots & Nests.
 Christa with her work in the gallery.
In your artist statement you discuss the roots and nests as metaphors for family life, please discuss this further. 
My metaphors are pretty overt. I have never felt the need to make my work cryptic or difficult for the viewer to draw meaning from it. I am more interested in finding ways to explore ideas that are simultaneously personal and universal, intimate yet approachable. What idea could be more universal than family? A nest can immediately be read as a metaphor for home. A root, perhaps less so for family, but my hope is that the red oil pigment lines visually connecting those roots to blood vessels and veins will help the viewer draw those conclusions. One might ask why I do not just take photographs of my children, my parents, my spouse, and I have certainly done that. But those photographs are just about my family, and will always remain such. While the nests and roots are also about my family, they can also be about your family, or a general notion of family, real or imagined.


There are many steps involved in the creation of your pieces. Walk us through the creation of an image start to finish.
For the past 14 years, the majority of my work has been based upon "camera less" photography, utilizing a flatbed scanner for the initial image capture. This project is no exception. I begin by scanning my subject, be it a nest, a root, etc. The base image made with a flatbed scanner is typically comprised of a shallow depth of field subject against a deep black background. While many of my past projects remain in this form, my encaustic work is inverted to a negative image, producing a white background. However, it is important to me that the viewer not immediately read the image as a negative, or if they do, that they disregard that information relevant to the work. Much of the subject matter that I work with is naturally dirty, so I spend a lot of time in Photoshop retouching dust and debris out of the scan. I also do a good bit of levels and curves adjustment in an attempt to pre-visualize what the tones will look like with many layers of wax over them. I then make an archival inkjet print on a matte fine art paper. This print is then precisely trimmed and glued to a wooden painting panel, and dried under weights overnight. Finally, the panel is painted with the encaustic wax, generally about 7 or 8 layers per panel. Each layer is painted with a large hake brush and carefully fused with a heat gun. Once I am satisfied with the surface and depth of the wax, the panel is rested for the wax to cool and harden, at least overnight. Then the panel is buffed with a microfiber cloth. Some of my pieces are finished at that point, but others have an added layer of oil pigment line work. To do this, I carve marks into the wax with woodworking tools, and then rub oil pigment into the marks. The oil paint that is outside of the marks is carefully wiped away with q-tips and linseed oil, leaving the color only within the carved marks. 



How were you first introduced to encaustic and what made you decide it was the right medium for this work?

I took a workshop at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in 2007 on combining photography and encaustics. I did not actively incorporate the process into my work until several years later, when I began the Roots & Nests project. I think that the delicate lines of the types of subjects that I am working with in this project lend themselves to the inversion to a negative, which is critical to the process. Encaustic does not look good when layered over the deep black backgrounds typical in scanography, and the white background that happens when the image is inverted works much better. The grayscale-on-white tone of the images also forms a connection with the idea of drawing and mark-making, which is simultaneously fascinating and technically elusive to me. Finally, a shallow depth of field is inherent in scanography, and adding the element of encaustic allows me to play with this phenomenon further. My hope is that when looking at the pieces, a viewer will question whether the limited focus is a result of the wax, or the image itself.

Nest II

You have been working camera-less for some time.  How did you begin using the scanner and how has it influenced your work.
In my second year of graduate school at the University of Georgia, I was really struggling to find my direction and voice as an artist. Almost in a moment of desperation, I tried making a self-portrait with my flatbed scanner. I immediately felt that I had stumbled across a good way of working, and was also encouraged to further explore this method by my graduate adviser. In terms of influence, working with the scanner caused my work to become more autobiographical and self-examining. I cannot go out and find photographs in the world with this process. I have to find the subject, bring it back to my studio, and create the photograph on the scanner surface. It's really a totally different working method than the way that I had previously approached photography. 

At the time that I started working this way, in 1999, I was really unaware of precedents or contemporary artists working with the flatbed scanner. I have since discovered that there are a rich variety of artists working with this method, and I am careful to pay homage to precedents such as Sonia Landy Sheridan and Darryl Curran. I also connect this method of working back to the very roots of photography and contact-based images such as those by William Henry Fox Talbot and Anna Atkins in the 19th century.

Installation view
Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success mean to you?
I think that if you are able to spend your days doing something that you love, and can still manage to pay your bills, you are successful. I love making art, and I love sharing this through teaching. I've managed to find a career that allows me to do both, and by that measure, I feel successful. I would be happy to find critical success for my work, but I will not feel the least bit disappointed if I never land a New York solo show. I'm just glad that I have the resources and opportunities to make new work, and to share the magic of the photography with my students. I feel that I gain as much knowledge and inspiration from them as they do from me.

Roots & Nests is on view through the end of the week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Methods (Alternative) Winners: Scott Hilton

Juror’s Choice winner Scott Hilton began to explore alternative processes about eight years ago. Assigning himself a project, he concocted a fictitious 19th century photographer and sought to make his imaginary character’s “authentic” images. He initially experimented with Photoshop, but found that modern technology could not properly replicate the hand-made aesthetic. The only solution was to learn the actual historic processes. Once Hilton got started, he was hooked, and decided to pursue alternative processes with other projects as well. Because each process has a different look and feel, he experimented with various techniques before settling on what he felt would best showcase his work. “When I started doing Wet Collodion work, I just loved the look of it so much that I started thinking more about what images I could make that would look good in that process.”


Because alternative process photography is so hands-on, some may wonder what led Hilton to photography as opposed to another medium. For him, it is simply about his ability to work with his chosen medium according to his own methodology:

I think better with my hands than I do with my brain. Photography, and particularly Wet Collodion, is just one way I love to make things by physical manipulation. I love to play with a material and see what it does, and that’s reflected in the things I photograph. It’s a two-stage process. I gather materials and play with them until I like what I get. Then I photograph it.

Synsee LIE

Hilton’s winning image, CYCL, is a digital print created from a wet plate collodion negative, allowing for a much larger print. This fusion of new and old photography techniques has been a huge development in the photographic world. Hilton finds that much of the contemporary alternative process work is a hybrid of new and old: “The resurgence of it in the past fifteen years is a direct response to the cosmic shift in most photography from the chemical to the digital, so it makes sense that artists today would seek to combine them.” For Hilton, the addition of modern technology gives him the best of both worlds: the inaccuracy and unpredictability of wet chemistry as well as the control and flexibility of modern printing. It also allows him to easily produce prints larger than traditional 4”x 5” plates.

Juror's Choice: CYCL

Because his typical shoot involves a time consuming chemical process, Hilton tends to set up his camera before he completely finalizes his images. He focuses on creating the images themselves, looking at them through the camera until he settles upon a final group of constructed scenes. This can take a few weeks. When it’s time to shoot, he shoots the images he has constructed over several days, until his chemical mixture is exhausted. During these shoots, if he finds inspiration for another project, Hilton makes note of it for later. “I make sketches while I shoot, thinking of what I will make over the next round. […] I always get my best ideas as a flash of something while I am really intensely working on something else.” Always planning for the next shoot is the embodiment of how Hilton defines success: Keeping clear goals and working towards them. “If you do this honestly and diligently, then success is whatever happens as a result.”


Methods (Alternative) is on view through February 23, 2013.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Methods (Alternative) Winners: Andrew Seguin

Director’s Choice winner for Methods (Alternative) Andrew Seguin discusses his work and process.
You define yourself as both poet and photographer. How does one impact the other and which, if they are not equal, is your focus?
Yes, I am a poet and photographer. I actively work in both mediums and have for a long time. My focus on each discipline varies depending on what projects are occupying my attention at any given moment, so sometimes I am consumed by writing and sometimes by photography, but I have always allowed both to coexist and intersect. Undoubtedly, my interest in language carries over into my photographic work — The Whiteness of the Whale, my series of cyanotypes inspired by Moby-Dick, deals directly with the graphic quality of the punctuation in the book, not to mention other facets of the novel. So as a visual artist I often probe language for expressive possibilities, which parallels what I do as a poet. To examine the other side of the question, visual art and photography — how, for example, the smallest aperture of a camera will yield an image with the greatest depth of field — have often provided me with subject matter for poems or, more importantly, frameworks for thinking about and constructing poems. How can language reflect the way a camera captures space? What is the linguistic equivalent of a snapshot? And such questions aside, sometimes poetry and photography are just two different things that I do.

Hand to Mouth
Your process appears to be a mixture of illustration subject and photographic process. Please walk us through the process of creating this work.
Tails Away, like all the images in The Whiteness of the Whale, began as a digital collage I created in Photoshop. I first scanned selected pages from Moby-Dick and excised all of the words, leaving the book’s punctuation to fend for itself. To this background of commas, periods, semicolons and dashes I added other elements that I had culled from old dictionaries and illustrated versions of Moby-Dick. Once I had created a collage that I was satisfied with, I rendered it as a digital negative and printed that negative as a cyanotype, which yielded a unique print. The process was a nice synthesis of the digital and the handmade.

Director's Choice: Tails Away
How does working in alternative processes inspire the content of your work?
Because I don’t use a camera to generate negatives when I’m making cyanotypes, my images need not come from the ostensible, observable world: I can investigate other means of making photographs. Certainly, that freedom led me to explore the possibilities of a collage-based process, which I used in both The Whiteness of the Whale and an earlier project. As for the cyanotype process itself, its gamut of blues and whites was ideally suited for a project dealing with the sea and a malevolent white whale.

Your series The Whiteness of the Whale is very clearly based off of Moby Dick. What about this story inspired you to create this series?
Moby-Dick is one my favorite books, and it floors me on so many levels: its prose is stunning, its symbolism is epic and its structure is somehow both manic and controlled. For me it’s a book of excess and obsession, and I had originally wanted to strip it to its skeleton by creating a version of it that consisted only of its punctuation — a minimalist homage, a musical score. But that idea only took me so far. I realized I wouldn’t do the book justice unless I created images that referenced the characters and the concerns of the book, including self-consumption, hunting something to extinction, the power of nature and of evil, and the human need for a quest.

Finally, we ask this of all of our artists, what does success mean to you as an artist?
It means being constantly driven to uncover new ideas and having — or creating — the resources to realize those ideas.

Methods (Alternative) is on view until February 23.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Matthew Gamber

The Kiernan Gallery is very pleased to have Matthew Gamber as our juror for Abstraction. We have asked him a few questions about his work and teaching.

Your work, in particular Blank Chalkboards and This is (Still) The Golden Age, are comprised of abstract images and yet the subject matter is also very apparent. How do you think your own work affects your role as juror for Abstraction?

I have tried to consider how certain images can resonate with viewers even if the subject matter of the photograph is not readily apparent. It requires a kind of evaluation that might not be required by artwork with subject-based content. As a juror, I imagine I will identify with images that not only have a unique aesthetic, but those that have undergone a certain level of scrutiny by the artist.

Untitled (Chalkboard 17) from series Blank Chalkboards 

This is (Still) The Golden Age was created with a unique process. Tell us a bit about this process.  

The image is a direct transfer of the light radiating from a television cathode ray tube. By pressing the paper directly against the glass, the remaining light is collected. The process converts an electronic illusion into physical artifact. The result is a light-based photographic print, where the light has been recorded onto a permanent surface.

Wimbeldon from series This is (Still) The Golden Age 

What is it that appeals to you about abstract photography and how would you describe the evolution of your own work?

The work I have made over the last decade is informed reducing documentary to an authorless ideal. This activity is reductive; the result manifests as abstraction.

Beaver (Leave it to Beaver) from series This is (Still) The Golden Age 

You also have an extensive teaching resume. How does your teaching affect your photography and vice versa?

Many ideas for projects have developed from what began as research for class lectures. Also, as a teacher, you learn to deliver ideas in a distilled format.

NTSC Color Bars from series Any Color You Like

Your newest body of work Any Color You Like, has generated a lot of positive response in the photographic community. As an artist, what does success mean to you?

Success, for me, is becoming more connected in the photographic community. I believe forward momentum within a growing network of colleagues is crucial to the long-term career of any artist.