“It is not that what is past casts its light on what is present, or what is present its light on what is past; rather… what has been comes together in a flash with the now to form a constellation” ~Walter Benjamin
These new photographs locate the small areas of concentrated emotion in old paintings and sculpture, where history, memory, and the artist’s imagination coalesce. Made in 2014-2016, these images of images isolate rapturous details where the meanings of life accumulate. In one photograph, a black string tied into an off-kilter bow connects the edges of a white collar that barely covers the pale human neck below; in another, a half-closed hand falls on plush fabric, the result of a swoon, an illness, a death? Through the careful framing of a particular, instead of the whole, this work simultaneously invokes fragility, violence, romance, and mortality.
I use the camera to create a time warp. The viewer’s eye volleys between mediums, between the temporal nature of photography and the metaphysical power of painting and sculpture. In these photographs of ancient art, the past continues into the present. These pictures, mostly of European art, were made in the United States over a two-year period, as I photographed in museums, antique shops, and historic houses. During the previous forty years, I made black and white gelatin silver prints, focusing on the pictorial and painterly aspects of photography. Working now in color and digitally, each capture is in dialogue with my analogue negatives. This project uses new technology to investigate old aesthetic and human values that do not disappear with technical change. The clarity of these photographs is a point of entry into the painting or sculpture. Paint cracks and the granularity of stone are intensified, underscoring their vulnerability. Brushstrokes are exaggerated, emphasizing the human hand that made them.
These pictures transport the viewer to a “constellation” of old and new techniques and imagery. My photographs reject the false perfection of the whole, and instead lay claim to the ambiguity of a single gesture. These pictorial fragments dislodge us even while their familiarity—a hand, a dress, a neck—unite us with our ancient selves.