Critical Mass 2017
Jurying for Photolucida's Critical Mass is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the current state of fine art photography. Which is why I get very excited when that time of year comes around both as a curator and artist. For me, this year was a return to the process after taking a couple years off from jurying Critical Mass as a pre-screener (the pre-screening process is intense). This year I opted out of prescreening so I could really focus and spend more time with the top 200. The diversity of selections was outstanding and a lot of work is in line with our philosophies on photography over here at One Twelve. There is a lot of work challenging the notion of what photography is – or can be. Below you'll find six of my favorite portfolios (in alpha order) from this years top 200, four of which made it into the final top 50. Congrats to all the top 200 and top 50 finalists. I hope to work with some of these folks in the near future!
–Blue Mitchell, One Twelve
Melissa M. Button
This body of work is a collection of narrative images where I have explored a mixed media process, as I find that the rich layering of imagery best conveys the complexity and vulnerability of the emotional journeys. through the use of photographic, found, and drawn images the work has provided me a reflection of my own journey throughout this life. Utilizing the seamless movement between interior and exterior spaces conveys the unpredictability of our passage through this life and to the multiplicity of one's space/place in this world. The use of the house/home becomes a notion that is constantly shifting as we age–moving in and out of people's lives and having them move in and out of ours–causing us to continually re/define the safety of our spaces. The images do not adhere to our conventional understanding of space, but rather require time to examine the internal logic inherent in each image providing a unique journey to be explored/discovered.
My hope is that somehow my personal narrative can transcend the individual and become something that is collective by means of common physical and emotional journeys.
Images are mixed media photo collages created in 2016
Building on my previous series Dark Continents, I have continued to explore metaphorically the complexity of the human psyche and its inner threads in order to further investigate my relationship with the multiple intersecting factors that constitute the female identity, delving into its multiple aspects. The central axis of these very intuitive and visceral works is the approach to the female body perceived mainly through three planes: the biological, the psychological and the social, and the juxtapositions and connections among these themes. In this series, I depart from a black and white photograph of a female body and make of these neutral photographs a canvas for recreating, through the physical labor of sewing, metaphors of the mind’s systematic representation of the world.
My hands intervene each work manually, and through this intimate, performance ritual, the embodiment of the photograph becomes the common ground where the familiar and the foreign meet, as an individual attempt to blur the lines between the internal and external spaces of the body. The construction of these mental maps evokes diverse psychological states and emotions with meanings that are in constant flux, never fixed, just like our identities.
With this series, I aim to approach what lies beyond control and reason, exploring, through the act of drawing with thread, embroidery, fabric and appropriated crochet pieces onto the photographic surface, the intricate mysteries of the psyche. Through these works, I intend to shed imaginary light on the female experience in order to build idealized and fantastical connections to the forces of the unconscious.
Archival pigment prints intervened with gesso, fabrics, found objects, embroidery thread and/or cotton-hemp thread. Each work is unique. Mounted on a stretcher with a maple wood frame.
I began #InHonor as a personal response to the killings of Black people across America. To be completely honest the work was born out of guilt. All of my friends had rallied up in arms to march for Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner. I, on the other hand, was nowhere to be found. I felt guilty. I consider myself, for the most part, a conscious individual and so my silence became a burden. When the time came for me to be vocal with my peers I chose the path of cowardice. What real change would come of my presence as a young gay black man at a march in which half of my people don’t accept or acknowledge me? Still though I felt moved to do something. Whether or not I was accepted was something I had and will always deal with, I had to come to terms with that before anything else.
#InHonor is a series of photo-based mixed media portraits made to honor Blackness as it exists in its various forms. More specifically it speaks to the violence and destruction occurring across America, in the form of police brutality. The skin color is removed from each portrait and then aggressively renegotiated. Pigment stands in for an idea or preconceived notion about a particular type of human experience. That experience is culminated and summed up in a word; Black. Questions of tangibility and digital approximations of an entire race are raised. What does a digital approximation of skin color mean and what does it mean to physically remove it and reapply it? The faces are forever transformed, just as our world is with each loss of life.
Photo-Based Mixed Media on Canvas
My images are digitally manipulated composites built from photographs I find online. The technique I use could be considered "hyper-collage". I cobble together pieces from photos I find interesting and feed them into Photoshop. Through a palimpsest-like layering process of adding and subtracting, I gradually blend the various parts together. I am basically manipulating and assembling a disparate array of multiple photographic elements (sometimes more than 50) to produce a single homogenized image. I do not use a camera at any stage in the process.
My method of construction has an improvisational and random quality to it, since it is largely driven by the source material I have available. I wade through my archive constantly and search for interesting combinations and relationships. Each new piece I bring to the composition informs the image's potential direction. It is an iterative and organic process where the end result is many times removed from its origin. I think of the work as a type of mutation which can haphazardly spawn in numerous and unpredictable directions.
I’ve chosen photography as a medium because of the cultural misunderstanding that it has a sort of built-in objectivity. This allows me to set up a visual tension within the work, to make it resonate and lure the viewer further inside. My current series is inspired by the classic horror literature of H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and similar authors. I am intrigued with the narrative archetypes these writers utilize to transform the commonplace into something sinister and foreboding. In my work, I prefer to use these devices as a means to generate entry points for the viewer. I'm interested in occupying a space where the mundane intersects the strange, and the familiar becomes alien. In a sense, I am attempting to render the sublime.
All images produced as archival ink jet prints on Hahnemuhle Satin fine art paper
This body of work is about finding belonging in motherhood. After the birth of each of my children I struggled with postpartum depression, these images are the means by which I coped with the reality that even after the requisite two years that this type of depression is deemed to last, the postpartum was dropped and the depression was here to stay. Accepting the beauty in the quotidian, embracing the bond between mother and child and between sister and sister. These works embrace the undeniable beauty and depth that can be found in sadness while separately unfolding a joy learned in raising my children.
All photographs are toned cyanotypes made from negatives of encaustic medium. Each photograph is printed by hand and is 1/1.
“Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz” is a novella told in staged photographs. It portrays an episode in the life of a fictional Jewish family living in Krakow, Poland in the year 1930. Dreamlike and poetic in style, “Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz” tells a tale primarily of loss. Death, the fraying of family bonds, and feelings of grief haunt many of the images, but these are also punctuated by moments of love, longing, and tenderness. The setting itself is a metaphor for loss and decay. As described in 1935 by the Jewish historian, Meir Balaban, by then the Jews remaining in the “once vibrant” neighborhood of Kazimierz were “only the poor and the ultra-conservative.” And while the series takes place some years before the death camps of the Holocaust, a growing darkness is apparent, along with the underlying awareness that most likely and tragically, the fates of all of the characters are doomed by history.
The images in “Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz” were created by digitally marrying handmade dollhouse-size dioramas with live models. This way of working affords me control over the elements of set design, lighting, and composition. These elements are significantly inspired by theatre and cinema, as well as by painters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, van Gogh, and de Chirico. While I strive to make the miniature sets as convincing as possible, they deviate just enough from reality to enhance the theatrical, slightly surreal mood.
All of the images in “Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz” are linked to a larger narrative arc. While I have a particular sequence of events in my own mind, I like to think of this story as open-ended, perhaps as movie stills from an unseen motion picture. Thus, each viewer is left to ponder and interpret each image, to fill in the gaps between the images, or to rearrange their chronological sequence. It is my hope that in this way, the pictures in “Once Upon A Time In Kazimierz” reflect the fleeting, fluid nature of both memory, and of dreams.