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Alchemy originated during medieval times, a rudimentary precursor to chemistry that sought to transform ordinary metals into gold and create death-defying elixirs. Cloaked in mystery, alchemy’s real promise was magic. As anyone who has stood over a darkroom tray can attest, photography transforms light and chemistry into magic all the time. Panopticon Gallery is infusing its own enchantment into the holiday season with Alchemists, two solo exhibits by photographers Amy Friend and Diana H. Bloomfield, who use light and chemicals in diverse alternative processes to create elegant imagery reminiscent of the past. Alchemists will be on view at the gallery in Hotel Commonwealth in Boston’s Kenmore Square through December 30th, 2017.
Amy Friend uses points of light to transform discarded vintage photographs into glimmering new incarnations. By patterning pinpricks onto her found prints and photographing the backlit images, she alters the lives of those pictured, at once ennobling their memories and bestowing a new existence, sparkling with possibilities. Friend retains the charming scale of her original prints, some quite diminutive, and plays fairy godmother with her illuminations, sometimes delicately outlining bodies, other times sprinkling points like ethereal spirits. She memorializes the tenderness of a grandparent and child walking hand in hand down a wooded path and transforms a woman resting on a lakeside rock into an enchanted mermaid. The original hand-colored and sepia-toned photographs depict cheerful occasions, from a friendly snowball fight (Feature Image) to once treasured portraits, their titles reflecting the telegraphic inscriptions found on their reverse sides. Their muted, often dark tones contrast visually and symbolically with the shimmering new lives they’ve been given. Friend’s photographs are touching and buoyant, evoking personal histories even as they suggest fresh possibilities.
Diana H. Bloomfield uses the chemistry of alternative photographic processes like gum bichromate, cyanotype and platinum palladium printing, often in combination, to create photographs with flowing gestures and rich dimensionality. Whether capturing images with a pinhole camera that creates a vintage, darkened vignette around the print edges or using digital capture and carefully registering three separate watercolor layers onto her photographic prints, Bloomfield produces softly glowing images that are dreamy and uplifting. Using a female model as her focal point, Bloomfield’s compositions range from the fecund, wooded environs of the South that seem to envelop her subject in warm, dappled light to abstract, bold designs that frame her model’s more dramatic postures in high-contrast, cool-toned prints. In all of them, Bloomfield achieves a lovely, enigmatic balance, with a model who seems contemplative but not sad and theatrical without contrivance. She emanates inner strength and grace in her movements, often dancing. In images that are at once contemporary in attitude and sentimental in tone, Bloomfield creates lusciously tactile and alluring photographs.
For more information about the Alchemists exhibits, go to: https://www.panopticongallery.com/alchemists/
This exhibition corresponds with the release of her newly released monograph of this series entitled Stardust. For information or to order, go to: https://www.lartiere.com/en/shop/publications/stardust/
Feature Image: “January 30, 1953” (Detail) from the series Dare alla Luce by Amy Friend (courtesy of the artist and Panopticon Gallery, Boston).