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Photograph As Object

February 14th - April 10th, 2021


kienholz_rocor.jpg explores artists who favor  “creating” rather than “finding” in their photography, and who invent narratives rather than observe and record them.  For this specific post, I’m interested in featuring artists who encourage viewers to interact with their photographs by forgoing protective framing and moving them into trafficked spaces.
Ever since I was twelve and saw an exhibit of assemblages by Ed and Nancy Kienholz at LACMA, a “rule breaking” approach to photography fascinated me.  They used photographs awash with resin, faded and torn as extensions of sculptural forms and as stand-ins for people. Later I was moved by Christian Boltanski’s evocative and haunting Lessons of Darkness installation at MOCA’s Temporary Contemporary where he transformed sterile spaces into a cathedral with photographic reliquaries lining the walls. Boltanski’s innovations have continued; in the 2011 Venice Biennale  he used moving loops of photographs to explore random chance in the wheel of fortune. While Kienholz and Boltanski probably don’t self-identify as photographers, Robert Frank is considered one of our own.  In the1980s and 90s he broke from traditional presentation in favor of experimental bound stacks of previous imagery and writing on collaged prints.  That phase of his photography had a big influence on me.

So for my first showcase, I’m looking at artists who free photographs from walls and release them into our three-dimensional world.  The five artists featured are all very different, but are connected by their flexible visions of what photography can be. Some give life to the paper itself - leading the viewer on a journey as it folds and warps. Others offer, even demand, interaction that grants viewers a share of authorship/ownership experiences. I want to thank these artists for taking a chance on me in this first show - I'm thrilled with the results.

Margit Hart

Shifted Relations

Positioning photographs on the human body as jewelry leads us towards a different dimension and opens up different perspectives as well as an exploration of the photographic medium. Viewers and wearers see the photos in a new way when worn on the body as pieces of jewelry. Changing environments bring continuously shifting relationships into being.

By wearing jewelry we are therefore involved in actively changing the context of the photos, and we interact with these pieces much more closely and directly than with an image hanging on a wall rather isolated and independent. Thus the meaning of the image is varied, modified and communicated diversely. Through the small format and specific crops the depicted images are perceived differently, realities become blurred and are transformed into something new. Jewelry is worn in various situations, including in everyday life remote from galleries and museums. Consequently an abundance of connotations and links previously not thought of arise.

In my works the image itself – without any further decorative trimmings – becomes a gem.

Taking photographs accompanies my life and has always been important for me besides making jewelry. In the work groups Structures, Fremde Federn, Borrowed Feathers,  and Shifted Relations,  the photos themselves became jewels. In earlier pieces specific details were emphasized through added parts in silver and aluminum, later on these additions were left out.


The photographs derive from a close observation of my everyday surroundings – at home or traveling –, noticing things at a certain moment, viewing them from an unexpected angle and thus discovering hidden treasures normally not noticed that easily. Abstractions are partly achieved in using details of details, and through changes in scale the photos are put into a new context. The rectangular, oval and round crops transform the images into partly abstract elements of design giving space for a variety of connotations.

@Margit Hart, all rights reserved

Amanda Keller Konya

@Amanda Keller Konya, all rights reserved

Specimens From America's Most Polluted River
Common modes of conveying information, such as science and journalism, fail to represent the complex reality of the New River, which flows north from Mexico into California — its use by illegal immigrants as a crossing point, its toxic state, the way it marks the boundary between public and private space. I was especially moved to undertake this project when I learned that the river, containing DDT, PCBs, and other dangerous chemicals, runs through California’s Imperial Valley, adjacent to crops grown and eaten every day by Americans nationwide. Illegal immigrants have direct contact with this chemical stew, and Border Patrol agents, as a matter of policy, won’t enter the water.

I produced the image component of this project at different access points to the river, collecting water samples along the way. Each image is enclosed in a specimen bottle and suspended in river water taken from the corresponding site. I labeled the bottles with traditional specimen tags, which record thoughts and experiences from police officers, Border Patrol agents, immigrants, hunters, activists, and community leaders. To play with ideas of image construction, I built a reversal of the photographic experience into the work: the viewer looks through the river water to see the photograph, whereas one typically would look at the photograph to see the river.

In my personal photographic practice I am often inspired to make imagery when I don’t understand or find something to be of particular concern.  Lately, in relation to photography I have been thinking about the language we use around photography (shoot, take, fire the shutter, capture) and how these terms promote problematic power structures within photography.  I’m taking care to decolonize my language of photography, especially in the classroom.  Retraining myself to use an alternative vocabulary (photograph instead of shoot, make/collaborate instead of take, release the shutter instead of fire the shutter, produce instead of capture) has been surprisingly challenging given how ingrained the concerning language is embedded in my vocabulary around the process of photography.

Tobia Makover

@Tobia Makover, all rights reserved

i received my mfa in 1999 

i loved every minute in the darkroom ...

made my own GAF 130 developer (beautiful glowing whites) ...

  agfa fiber paper.  limited edition.  professionally matted and framed.....
and too expensive to actually make/maintain after my graduate school work.
i tried ...

   but the next two shows, money determined the number of prints that went into the show.

money determined the number of prints that went in the show??!!???

i started experimenting. 
dumpster diving for surfaces.  a gift of discarded bee's wax.
with nothing holding me back, the work started to pour out of me.  
pieces increased.
no more editions.
couldn't keep up.
all unique.

seems obvious, in retrospect, that exhibiting work would change.
i stepped back from what was expected of me.
when doors didn't open, i opened my own.

so i went for it:

shows with installations of over a thousand pieces
a large floor installation that you had to walk around to look at
floating cubes
pieces that hang from the floor to ceiling
i hung in museum halls
abandoned homes

i listened to the space
each called for something different
allowed me different ways to show the work.

so i went for it:

shows with installations of over a thousand pieces
a large floor installation that you had to walk around to look at
floating cubes
pieces that hang from the floor to ceiling
i hung in museum halls
abandoned homes

i listened to the space
each called for something different
allowed me different ways to show the work.


Andréanne Michon

© Andréanne Michon, All Rights Reserved

My artistic practice involves multi-layered processes and explores how the planet functions and evolves. Thinking about photography as the core of my artmaking practice, I have come to understand the medium as being capable of operating in parallel to the planet’s ability to transform itself. The cataclysmic forces of nature, which include cycles of destruction and creation, are similarly present in my own work, but are active at a more intimate scale.

Heat, pressure, erosive and chemical reactions, imprinted traces, and extremes of light and darkness are key to the hybrids that I create. These phenomena are in dynamic exchange in my work, they migrate seamlessly between media such as carving, pyrogravure, printmaking, sculpture, photography, moving images and sound. This back and forth between processes allows for the emergence of a different kind of visual language that supports new forms and vocabularies.

Meridel Rubenstein

©Meridel Rubenstein, All Rights Reserved

Oppenheimer's Chair

Oppenheimer’s Chair was a commission for the first SITE Santa Fe International Biennial which intentionally opened on the 50th anniversary of the first atomic test at Trinity. This room-size glass house, with sandblasted imagery and a video projection onto a glass chair, is a meditation on nature and the shedding of defensive postures after 50 years of the Cold War. An armored sentry figure, made of transparent film in a standing steel frame, guards the portal. The chair video can be seen through him, transmutating in his solar plexus.

Photography is how I best convert my ideas materially.  Everything comes in the eye  just like a camera lens and is upside down and backwards. I've always felt my job is to turn things right side up. I do see things like tonalities and sharpness in a very 19th century way. But I have  done everything I can to break down that distancing that happens when photographic images are faraway on a wall with a cold gelatin surface  instead of enveloping the  viewer. So now I just say I’m an artist using photography, not very traditionally.

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