Juror’s Choice winner Marilyn Canning says that it would be impossible for her to live without photography. “Photography is something I must do. It’s in my DNA. I have an unrelenting passion to create interesting, well crafted images.” Moved to create images that are emotionally charged, or have a singular beauty, she has found inspiration not only in other artists, such as Wynn Bullock, Sarah Moon, and Michael Kenna, but also in captive environments. “I have long been drawn to images of aquatic life as well as life that once existed and is now on display in museums.”
Juror's Choice Hippopotamus
For Canning’s series Tank Life, she visited over a dozen aquariums striving to capture the strange beauty of captive creatures underwater. “Aquariums, despite their artificial nature, are truly magical. They bring urban dwellers closer to a part of nature that is beyond normal reach.” This desire to unite people with nature is evident not only in her winning image, Hippopotamus, but in her other work as well. In Stuffed: The Beauty of the Beasts, Canning explores the world of taxidermy displays and dioramas in museums around the world. Although the spaces Canning explores with her images might bring us closer to exotic wild beasts, Canning also acknowledges that her series are about just that: an artificial environment. “There is an inherent conflict in these displays. Despite the remarkable skill of the taxidermists and diorama creators who have meticulously crafted these replicated worlds, these displays are fundamentally unreal.”
Shooting this work is both time consuming and technically challenging. Struggling with low light, and reflections from smudged and scratched glass is all part of the process. Moreover, Canning’s living subjects are constantly in motion, which require patience and determination. A well-lit aquarium and a considerate crowd is pleasant rarity.
Black Fish Lily Pads, Atlanta
Each silver gelatin image is hand-toned, adding another layer of depth and making a one-of-a-kind image. An unpredictable process, there is always a slight variance between one print and another. “The toning process is quite tricky in that toning continues after the print is removed from the toner, so it’s hard to always know when to pull the print.”
As always, we asked Canning to define success in art. Her response focused on the balance of commendation and quality. While she aspires to critical acclaim and commercial success as many artists do, her view of success goes beyond that:
I continue to strive to create work that is hauntingly beautiful as determined by my personal aesthetic. Success to me is creating work that is mysterious, well crafted, somewhat unique, has a consistent visual voice and that is of the same caliber of the artists that I most admire.
Creatures is on view through March 23, 2013.