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Some may think that the spike in photographic “alternative processes” is just trendy or that Photoshop super-users are only indulging their inner nerds, but I’m convinced that these are all merely tools that creative artists mine as they follow their muses. I say bring it! And bring it they did to the Photolucida 2017 reviews last week in Portland, Oregon. I was one of the lucky reviewers who had a chance to see some of their spectacular work and, in my final post about it today, I’m excited to share those especially inventive and beautiful images that involve alterations or abstractions.
Alterations that employ arsenals of studio sets, photography and Photoshop have borne highly imaginative, if not impossible, figurative narratives. Grace Weston constructs and photographs elaborate studio sets with miniature figures to invoke a psychological, noir narrative from the Mad Men era in her series The Long Night. Tranquil montages of photographed wild animals confined to domestic interiors whose walls are ironically painted with natural habitats ask pointed questions in Carol Erb’s series Dominion. Lou Krueger creates cosmic, fantastical allegories reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch, photographing metallically painted human figures in studio sets, then using Photoshop to rearrange them and their body parts in his provocative, darkly comic series The Temple of Wonders.
Other photographers have used constructed portraiture to reflect on cultural and interior states. Sandra Klein explores the mysteries of the aging mind by overlaying her photographed profile with ancient drawings of stellar constellations or the human brain, then adorning them with craft, such as stitching with threads reminiscent of nerve fibers or collaging with memory-laden miniature replicas of old letters, in a tender homage to her mother with Alzheimer’s Disease in the series Inner Dialogues. Jan Cook evokes inner dreams and fantasies in her lyrical silver gelatin photographs of masked or costumed children by applying brushstrokes of hue-producing chemicals in her “Chromoskedasic paintings” from the series Fugue. Kyle Meyer photographs culturally shunned African gay men wearing traditionally female headdresses, then cuts them into strips and weaves them together with samples from those same brightly colored African fabrics, simultaneously celebrating and veiling their identities in his rich and tactile series Interwoven. Sara Silks expresses her reactions of disorientation and distress over the current American political climate in moody photographs that layer an ethereal human silhouette against skewed and inverted backgrounds in her series Leaving Terra Firma.
Landscape is another genre that photographers have altered with aplomb. Ari Salomon’s near 360-degree vertical panoramas of urban Japanese cityscapes are stitched together in Photoshop to create mind bending, grand-scale distortions with fascinating juxtapositions of buildings and spaces in his intriguing studies of our relationship to space, time and culture. The sublime B&W silver gelatin photographs by Lyle Gomes only look like diptychs – they are actually natural juxtapositions captured by his keen eye from Lake Como to California in the series Measuring Space. Most aerial photographers shoot from about 1500 feet above the earth but Luc Busquin’s 35,000 foot vantage point as a commercial pilot enables him to capture phenomenal B&W abstractions in a series of fresh perspectives Atop the Troposphere. Joyce Lopez inserts subtle geometries into vivid land and sky scapes in her sophisticated and whimsical images in the series Heavens and Earth. Dawn Watson’s elegant color inversions in her serene landscape and nature studies create an intriguing form of abstraction while retaining realistic representation in her series Message from G.R.A.C.E..
Subtle layering of color in airy, imaginative compositions using recognizable objects inspire mental flights of fancy in Indra’s Net, Randi Ganulin’s series pondering the networks of the brain and in Threshold, Kerry Mansfield’s lyrical, entirely photographically captured images of falling feathers exploring the cadences of sleep. “Light Artist” Rachel Wolf steps away from reality with her cameraless “chemigrams” that flow with colors and shapes that allow the consciousness to float in ethereal abstractions. Conversely, Martin Venezky’s meticulous B&W photographic constructions tightly fuse biological and geometric forms, abstractly tracing original objects into alluring and disjointed montages in his series The New Machinery. The artistic team of Tom and Lois White creates explosions of color in dynamic, dizzying abstractions of common street scenes in their series Roadway Conversations (Feature Image and below). What a ride! Thank you again to all the gifted artists who shared their work with me at Photolucida 2017.
Feature Image: From the series Roadway Conversations (detail) by Tom and Lois White (courtesy of the artists).