Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Jennifer Schlesinger-Hanson


The Kiernan Gallery is pleased to have Jennifer Schlesinger-Hanson as juror for our upcoming exhibition, Take Flight. Jennifer is the Director of Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe, as well as a prolific photographer. I had the privilege of asking a few questions about her work on two sides of the fine art world.

Verve Gallery of Photography has an excellent reputation for showing outstanding works of photography from photographers at all stages in their careers. When you became Director in 2005, Verve was still a new gallery. How has it evolved during your time there and what are your goals for its future?

In 2006, VERVE expanded into the entire building of which we were only renting a small portion at the time we opened in 2003. So when that occurred, we tripled our exhibition space and it allowed us to take on more artists and rotate more exhibitions. In addition, in the past 10 years since the gallery’s inception, photography as a medium has rapidly evolved and digital printing as an accepted medium has become very commonplace. At the same time, an appreciation of a photographic fine print hand-crafted by a fine artist has been on demand to stand out from all the rest. We really lean towards exhibiting fine art prints, whether they are digitally printed, or hand-printed by artists working in 19th and 20th century processes. Our collectors trust that when they receive a print from us, they can expect it to be of the utmost quality and that it will be delivered with care, information about the artist, and with good communication. We have really honed our business skills and are proud of our reputation.

Here nor There, hand-coated albumen print, 4x8

As Director of Verve, you must receive many portfolio submissions. What is it that you look for when contacted by artists looking for representation?

We have a formal submission process we ask artists to follow in order to streamline our reviewing process. We receive an exorbitant amount of submissions on a weekly basis and it’s a lot to keep track of. But we’ve developed a system for logging work in, and have a staff member who concentrates solely on this task.

Because we do a lot of our sales remotely to out-of-state collectors and clients, it is crucial that the work be well represented digitally which is why we ask artists to submit a website and/or jpgs. We realize that this can be discouraging to many artists working in certain processes that don’t translate well digitally and we can have an exception for that type of work. But mostly, we are looking for people to follow the submission guidelines and contact us if it’s necessary we see a print in person before sending one. If the work strikes us digitally, then we ask to see prints in person. We highly discourage unsolicited books, prints, etc because we just don’t have the capability to store or ship this back to them. In addition, we really discourage artists from approaching us in the gallery to view their portfolios because we try to reserve the gallery day to speak to clients about the work we already represent.

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

Mostly I just really don’t like to be asked to look at someone’s work on their ipad, iphone, or book, etc when just stopping into the gallery on a whim. Artists have to understand we are quite busy working to promote the artists we already have as well as nurture our client relationships and it usually just isn’t appropriate to approach a gallery in that way. I participate in Review Santa Fe portfolio reviews, and I am always on the lookout for new work. The best way to have us view an artist’s work is via our submission guidelines – we take submissions very seriously, so artists should know that is the best way to show us work.

Here nor There, hand-coated albumen print, 4x8

How have your experiences as a curator influenced you as an artist?

I think the biggest thing I take away from my job and bring to my work is the editing and curating of my own work. Because I work in a laborious process, it is important for me to know when to print a negative, when to give up, and when to spend a little more time making it better. I have learned how to recognize what works and what doesn’t work fairly quickly and try not to waste a whole lot of time!

Utopia, hand-coated albumen print, 6x8

Describe your path to alternative process photography. What led you to it, where did you start, and how did you end up working with albumen prints?

I was trained in printing a fine print in College - whether a c-print or a gelatin silver print. From the time I graduated College I printed gelatin silver until I became pregnant and had to work away from the darkroom. It was at that time I did the Moon Series and printed digital prints. As soon as I was done nursing, I bought a pinhole camera and started shooting large format film again. It was after that project, the Object Diaspora series, that we started raising chickens and my daughter started her own egg-selling business because of the large amount of eggs our chickens were producing. It was really that moment that I had the idea to work in Albumen and just became obsessed with making that feisty medium work. It took about 8 months to iron out the many kinks in the process until I could mostly get good prints consistently. I’ve been hooked on albumen ever since.

Utopia, hand-coated albumen print, 6x8

Your work has a unique relationship between the past and present by exploring contemporary ideas and themes in a historical process. How do you think your work will be interpreted 150 years from now?

Oh wow, how humbling of a thought! I can only hope that the work is still around and being appreciated for its investigation of the life I experienced being a human in the 21st century!

Your work has a surreal and sometimes theatrical element to it. How much pre-planning is involved in the making of an photograph?

For a small handful of images, I do plan, but a lot of the work happens intuitively and by chance. In fact, perhaps the best work I’ve made was unplanned and unscripted. I guess that I always have a little bit of an idea of what I am trying to do, but it’s always magical to me when something else comes out of that and works out even better.

Utopia, hand-coated albumen print, 6x8

Our species’ fascination with flight has resulted in many depictions of people and animals in flight under their own power or with mechanical or magical assistance. How do you think you will approach the topic as juror for Take Flight

I want to see unique interpretations of the topic. I mean, of course there will be angels, balloons, wings, planes, involved – how could their not be with such a topic! But I want to see the artist’s own vision - their unique approach.

Finally, what does success in art mean to you?

Success to me in art means having others appreciate the work you do and to be honored for that in various ways. I make work for me because I have to, I don’t know where I would be without my photographic obsessions, but if it weren’t for the ability to share it and have it appreciated by others, it wouldn’t give me the impetus to keep creating.

The deadline to submit work for Take Flight is January 23. Visit KiernanGallery.com for more information. 

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