Some years ago I came upon a shoebox full with 73 love letters dated 1929–‘32 from George Daniels, a bank official for the Royal Bank of Canada in New York City, to Edna Josephine MacInnis, a nursing student at Columbus Hospital.
The letters, all from George, trace the story of two young people introduced by mutual friends. They begin seeing each other for walks, they go bowling, they have dinner with friends. They fall in love. They have doubts. They write each other at least once every day. Before he goes on vacation she asks him to destroy all her letters so his roommates won’t read them (he does). However, she keeps all of his letters, which talk of his love for her, his inexperience and uncertainty in terms of “technique” (kissing), their deepening love for each other and his desire to marry her despite feeling he is too poor, telling her that “I continually doubt that I can make you happy.” On the October day after the stock market crashes (the Great Depression 1929–39), he apologizes for not seeing her—“between this stock market slump and boom and locking up the vault, I’ve been here every evening this week.” Two months later, after “the thrill of a kiss on Terrace Hill” and a letter he signed “xoxoxo with every expression of love ever thought of,” they elope.
In this series I use photos of my imagined Edna’s responses to excerpts from the letters that I believe she might have singled out. She was a modern woman. She smoked and wore makeup (which George worries about telling his mother), she loved to dance, she voiced her romantic expectations, and she wanted a career. There is nothing momentous about their story—one of the reasons I found it so compelling. — BRIGITTE CARNOCHAN
In the series Reflections on the Edge, Elizabeth captures the human form in the ever-changing reflective properties of water. Through her lens she see wonderfully distorted robust figures and colorful patterns that remind her of the works of Fernando Botero and Gustav Klimt. Every minute, every cloud, the wind and the movement of the model disturb the water and distort the image; thus her palette is continually reanimated. The forms created by light and shadow, wind and wave alter the boundaries between reality and fancy, illusion and distortion, appearance and misperception. The prints in this collection are further accentuated by printing the images on handmade Japanese paper.
On the other hand, in the series Altered Egos, the constantly changing refractive qualities of light—the bending wave of light as it passes between two media of different densities, first air and then water—creates an optical effect that distorts Elizabeth’s subject. In some instances, the distortion can enhance the beauty of the model, and in others the distortion can be a malformed and misshapen body or face so as to be seen as unnatural and strange. Unlike the Reflections series, these Ego images challenge the notion that art must realistically depict the human form even when some images are haunting distortions and skewed perspectives. Realism is abandoned—Elizabeth doesn’t want the reproduction to be an exact representation of the person portrayed, photographic in detail to detail. Rather, she is looking to capture a “nonrepresentational,” a “nonobjective” abstraction of her model. Conceptually, she looks for the expressive elements of the realist’s art by modifying the natural appearance rather than reproducing the image exactly as her model looks in real life.
In Salutations, Josephine combines collaged and distorted photographic images with a wet-collodion-on-metal process that dates back to the 19th century. She creates a world that is barely recognizable, hovering like a memory or a dream in the space between the concrete and the ineffable—beyond words. Throughout the work, half-materialized visions of certain elements appear and reappear—an apple, a bird, a window, the female form—as if to suggest that some kind of narrative is buried under the layers of fractured representation. But the project as a whole resists any linear reading, instead concerning itself with establishing an enigmatic set of conditions—loss, solitude, melancholy, nostalgia, etc.—that create a wholesome organic space for interpretation. In other words, rather than tell any particular story, these works are a stage for a number of potential stories that hinge upon these broader concepts. In balancing on the threshold between the real and the surreal, these images favor the poetic over the prosaic and the symbolic over the literal. These fine art works are from a collection of painted photogravures and wet collodion tintype portfolios.
Like many native Southerners, I am closely attuned to and completely enamored with the past. And photographs, for me, have always been about the past. Even when I photograph to make a statement about the present, or to comment on the future, the image itself—the one I’ve just made simply by opening and closing a shutter—is cemented in the past.
These particular images, from an ongoing series I began 15 years ago, are of my now 28-year-old daughter. An always intuitive and willing collaborator, she is the perfect photographic subject and—as ever—an inspiring muse.
These images present like visual narratives; alone, or in combination, they have a story to tell. As metaphorical portraits, they suggest the essence of a person, rather than offer any literal interpretation. I like to think of these as visual vignettes that suggest half-remembered, fragmented dreams—or elusive memories. They borrow from the past, my ever-changing and skewed memories of that past, and fleeting moments in time.
When I first began this series, I used lensless (pinhole) and toy cameras because I love the movement, the fluidity and the unpredictability inherent with these cameras. I feel I am at my creative best when that slight element of the unknown is a constant. For over 20 years, I have also printed in antique printing processes—for some of those same reasons.
This figurative work, printed in the multilayered gum bichromate process, exploits that sense of movement and fluidity, and is also often rife with imperfection and unpredictability. This particular process offers me real creative freedom and seems to mesh well with my images, which remain wholly interpretive and suggestive in nature. The repeated layerings (and the often slight mis-registrations of those layers) are meant to add a tonality and a saturated richness, yet each layer added also serves to remove all the hard, clearly defined edges and sharp clarity. A softness and ambiguity results—much the way we see and remember. — DIANA BLOOMFIELD
BELLAS FIGURAS with VERVE Gallery artists
Exhibition Dates: April 29 through June 11, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday May 6, 2016 from 5 – 7pm
Santa Fe, New Mexico