Thursday, July 24, 2014

Portfolio Showcase 2014: Bootsy Holler

For many people, family photograph albums are among the most cherished possessions. For someone who may not have had the chance to know their distant relatives and ancestors, photo albums can offer a glimpse into a personal history. In her series Visitor: Rebuilding the Family Album, Bootsy Holler has incorporated new composite technology into vintage family photographs to reconstruct her family album and find her place alongside relatives she never met. 

Holler originally conceived of the series while taking a photography workshop. Her multi-step process is as complex as the relationships she is constructing. Beginning first with a family snapshot, she examines the photograph to determine where she would fit in. She then draws on her love of vintage clothing to find costuming appropriate to the scene and time period. Using a self-timer, Holler photographs herself sometimes against a background, sometimes in an environment, paying careful attention to replicate the lighting in the original photograph. Dressed and posed, Holler imagines herself in the photos’ era, which ranges from the 1920’s to 60’s.  After selecting the images of herself that will fit in with her chosen vignette Holler creates a simple composite of how she sees the image fitting together. She then sends her work to her expert “composite and deconstructionist” who fine-tunes the image.

The photographs themselves are at once delightful, poignant, and fascinating. But it is in the presentation of the photos that the series really comes together. Holler prints the photograph at the original ratio and replicates the imperfections of creases, slight tears, and odd borders. The photographs are framed in shadowboxes and mounted to black photo album pages. Each page is labeled with a description and date in the artist’s own handwriting. The subjects of the photographs are labeled as well with arrows attached (Willie, Mom, Ginger), but Holler is always identified by the label “me.” Each frame has a small magnifying glass attached by a chain to allow the viewer a closer look. 

What began as a simple assignment has blossomed into a rich and complex portfolio that has helped Holler find a recurrent theme in her work. “It was not until I finished the Visitor series that I realized I had a larger story about a time and place and a people (my family) in the last three bodies of work I produced.”

With Holler’s successful foray into digital composites and clever approach to presentation, it’s no surprise that she finds inspiration in graphic design. And as the niche of composite work continues to grow, she is just happy to be able to continue doing work she loves. “Success in art might just be finishing a body of work and showing anywhere on any platform. Then being able to come up with another idea and do it again. Being a working artist that is consistent is success in itself.”

Portfolio Showcase 2014 is on view at The Kiernan Gallery through July 30, 2014.

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