Monday, May 20, 2013

Open Water Winners: Rahshia Linendoll-Sawyer

Eschewing seamless and other traditional non-spaces, Juror’s Choice winner Rahshia Linendoll-Sawyer chose to shoot in the liquid environment of a pool. “I wanted a figure detached from the ground; adrift in its surroundings.” After scouting and experimenting with locations for a year, Linendoll-Sawyer finally found the effect she was looking for. “My initial experiments failed as the figure looked too contrived […] or worse, the photograph looked digitally manipulated. All of the work is done in lens, no digital manipulation.”

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Linendoll-Sawyer’s winning image, We Are Not Made of Wood No. 23, is part of a larger series of similarly titled underwater self-portraits. The titles come from a letter Vincent Van Gogh wrote to the owner of a café expressing sympathy for the man’s ill wife: “Diseases exist to remind us that we are not made of wood, and it seems to me this is the bright side of it all. And after that one dreams of taking up one's daily work again, being less afraid of obstacles, with a new stock of serenity…” Linendoll-Sawyer appreciated the sentiment in Van Gogh’s words, and saw a parallel between it and the themes of fragility and confidence in her own work. “[The line] summed up, for me, the strength it takes to be helpless and out of control is often overshadowed by the disease.”

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Linendoll-Sawyer describes this series as “a narrative on losing control and grappling to regain control. I want to push the viewer to take on a role in the paradox of control – being in control or control-less.” Though a departure from her previous work with miniature environments, it maintains her fascination with water, continuing her journey “from miniature vessels filled with glycerin and objects, to water filled filters, and now myself being underwater in the environment.”

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Recognizing that presentation was critical to how her work would be understood, Linendoll-Sawyer took the unusual step of mounting her images on aluminum and displaying them without a frame.

I wanted to keep as much as much of the glossy, wet feel as I could. I tried many different techniques and settled with the aluminum because not only did it retain the wet feel, it also added a subtle metallic shimmer and a 3D quality to the final piece. The float mount was a natural choice as the framed piece needed to retain the feeling of endless expansion.
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Paradox is a recurring theme in Linendoll-Sawyer’s work, and sees success as a paradox as well. “On one side, what do I want success to provide? For me, it is simply being successful enough to continue making and evolving my work, and on the other side, as the artist, I must be an agent for my own success.”

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Open Water is on view through June 1, 2013.

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