Saturday, November 17, 2012

Portrait Society Relaunched (With Style)

Shimon & Lindeman Installation: Decay Utopia Decay
by Judith Moriority in Express Milwaukee
The newly shaped Portrait Society Gallery (PSG), in the Third Ward’s Marshall Building, opened Nov. 9. Six-plus months is a long time to walk around in dusty debris, but the gallery is up and running and proprietor Debra Brehmer has launched it with style. UW-Milwaukee and MIAD art students will cheer at their opportunities to exhibit in one of the smarter galleries in town. A conceptualist by nature, Brehmer has carried her vision forward from the days when she owned Art Muscle magazine.
Fans of her fifth-floor PSG will still browse three gallery spaces—united, not divided—in the 1,000-square-foot, seamless redo, and they will surely endorse her selection of artists. It’s a reunion of sorts, bringing together old and new self-portraits by J. Shimon and J. Lindemann. Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman, another photographic team, add the history of the natural by pairing portrait busts of women with cyanotype overlays of plant forms. Nicholas Grider, in collaboration with PSG, presents “word photographs.” As a writer, I am keenly interested in his images, i.e. how words grow into writing and how writing grows into images. A selection of “vintage” portraits, unearthed by Brehmer, will complement Grider’s portion of the exhibition.
I remember seeing the work of Shimon & Lindemann, as well as the work of Ciurej & Lochman, in the pages of Art Muscle 15 years ago. Standing in this updated space is an earthy experience, for it strongly suggests new growing out of old, in much the same way that PSG has grown. It’s a sentimental journey well taken.
Brehmer’s master’s degree in art history has shaped her sensitivity to the concepts driving art. In turn, the concepts create credibility and nurture artists. Both a discerning curator and proprietor, as well as a supporter and a host with a keen sense of “the most,” she also understands the business of art. Did I mention that the gallery sheltering Shimon & Lindemann’s photographs will feature a tipi in which you are invited to sit?
The enriching exhibition moves into 2013 before closing on Jan. 5. PSG calls it a GRAND re-opening. Yes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Natural History at the Portrait Society Gallery

We are looking forward to exhibiting images from our digital/cyanotype project, Natural History, at the Portrait Society Gallery from 9 November 2012 through 5 January 2012.  Included in this exhibition will be cyanotype self-portrait project Decay, Utopia, Decay by John Shimon and Julie Lindeman and collaborative installation by gallerist Debra Brehmer and photographer, Nicholas Grider.

from Natural History, ongoing series
The transformation of “portraits into tangled shadows of time. Grafting techniques from the history of photography, the cyanotype impressions of botanicals pay homage to Anna Atkins’ use of the medium in the nineteenth century…They speak of evanescence and hidden nature.”

J. Shimon and J. Lindeman
 An exhibition about our personal desperation to create a paradise and record its existence at our isolated rural Wisconsin farm. Such perfection can only exist in the haze of the past or future, making it absurd to approach it with the present-ness of photography, even with camera formats as reflectively cumbersome as 30×36 inches or as spontaneous as small-gauge 8mm movies. Our decaying, aging existence provides us with a stage as we face off with the elements, the uncontrollable plant world, broken-down farm implements, groundhogs, wasps, and mosquitoes.”

Nicholas Grider

This collaborative project between the photographer Nicholas Grider (MFA Cal-Arts) and Portrait Society pairs vintage portraits in all media with photo-derived word images. The exhibition will be in the gallery’s new “Lounge,” the smallest and most informal room of the new space.  From gallery owner and curator Debra Brehmer’s perspective, the exhibition is about loss (of all kinds) and the difficulties of communicating who we are and how we feel; the difficulties of being “known.” All of the vintage portraits, whether paintings, photographs or drawings, carry a sense of displacement as they have fallen out of context and out of a linear kind of history. But that may be a truer state than the assumed conventional ‘life,’ where we think we have a place, a permanency and belongingness.

Nicholas Grider, whose “Men in Suits” project was shown at the gallery in 2009, works in diverse formats. These word photographs present fragments of phrases, thoughts or song lyrics.  Disjointed, the broken phrases feel far more open and interpretive than they would nestled into completed sentences. Grider says this about his body of word images:

“I'm interested in how thought translates to writing and how writing translates to image so I have connected bodies of work that approach those ideas in different ways.  A kind of sub-lingual emotion or precursor to thought is represented by the abstract, swirling fields of pen lines; private, unspoken thought is represented by handwriting; and words spoken in conversation are represented by stenciled text in pencil and pen.  I've matched words and phrases to projects according to what I think a piece of text most suits, and I draw upon pop songs and popular sayings for the text pieces to make them possibly recognizable but unfamiliar in their new form.”

Fall 2012 Exhibitions

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Film's Not Dead Interview

Film's Not Dead 

NATURAL HISTORY - Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman
by Tori 18 September 200-12
“Film locks you into it’s own characteristics, which has it’s own pleasures.”
‘Our collaborative practice began from our work at the Institute of Design and developed in the alternative art world of the 1980s. We were asking the same questions about finding our place in the world and using photography to examine those questions. On a practical level, working with a collaborator provides critique, a willing model, a road trip companion, an assistant, an editor. On a conceptual level, it challenges the notion of the primacy of the individual artist’s vision, the artist/model relationship, and ownership of the final work. Collaboration demands moving beyond personal stories and into the realm of collective experience. It has been the core of our practice and mirrors the fluid and mutable ways of storytelling traditions.’
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman have been collaborating together for many years to form engaging and enticing work that involves shaping a story within their photographs by addressing the confluence of history, myth and popular culture. We were able to talk to them about their eye catching work entitled ‘Natural History’. On their site they describe this body of work as this:
‘In Natural History, we transform portraits into tangled shadows of time. Grafting techniques from the history of photography, the cyanotype impressions of botanicals pay homage to Anna Atkins’ use of the medium in the nineteenth century while the underlying portraits are printed using digital technology. They speak of evanescence and hidden nature.’
Film’s not Dead: Where and how did both of your passion for photography come about?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: At the Institute of Design/Illinois Institute of Technology. Having grown out of the New Bauhaus it was one of the sacred centers of photographic Modernism.
Film’s not Dead: Why do you choose to shoot on film?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: We began working before digital technology existed. Learning how to shoot and print, film was part of our training. We developed an aesthetic that was tied to the classical black and white darkroom print with its deep rich blacks and long gray scale range. We were sensitized to the subtle tonalities and saturation of different color films, which bring a layer of added content to film based prints. Digital allows more of a choice. Film locks you into it’s own characteristics, which has it’s own pleasures.
Film’s not Dead: Your work for the series ‘Natural History’ combines a significant historical process combined with the use of nature and large format negatives as well as digital printing, what would you say is your favorite process to work with and why?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: Large format shooting reveals information with startling clarity, it is by far our favorite process. After working intensely with digital printing, introducing cyanotype over digital prints brought us back to that uncertain, yet magical transformation: like the first time you see a print reveal itself in the developing tray.
Film’s not Dead: How did you form a partnership  and how do you both find it working side by side as opposed to working alone?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: We met as students at the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1978. The school was a bastion of Modernism, which included the somewhat macho-individualistic, artistic-vision-thing, as well as unspoken “rules” of how and what should be photographed.  Collaboration is inherently conversational, and as young women at the ID, we talked a lot about this state of affairs. Discovering this working method while still students, we have continued to work exclusively as a collaboration ever since.
On a practical level, working with a collaborator provides critique, a willing model, a road trip companion, an assistant, an editor. On a conceptual level, it challenges the notion of the primacy of the individual artist’s vision, the artist/model relationship, and ownership of the final work. Collaboration demands moving beyond personal stories and into the realm of collective experience.
Film’s not Dead: What drew you to use the cyanotype process and when where your first encounters with it?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: Lindsay teaches a materials and processes class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She was experimenting with cyanotype chemistry on various surfaces. She coated one of our existing digital prints with chemistry, put flowers on the surface and exposed it to sunlight. The resulting image beautifully expanded on what we had been working toward with an earlier series of portraits of older women. The Prussian blue tone suggested a shadow world, which blended the thoughts we were having about living in the shadows of history–the history of these women as well as of photography.
Film’s not Dead: What is the meaning behind the title ‘Natural History’?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: The title works on many levels. 
‘Natural history’ is an extension of the natural sciences:  a systematic study of natural objects or organisms. The scientific reference addresses the chemical and light interactions of making cyanotypes. The combination of contemporary digital prints with one of the earliest photographic processes connects it to photography’s continuum and history. 
Using botanicals to make the impressions references the work of Anna Atkins and her use of the medium in the 1840′s. She was an accomplished botanical illustrator and recognized photography as an excellent medium to accurately describe British ferns and algae. She is credited as being the first woman to make a photographic book and perhaps the first woman to make a photograph. 
The underlying portraits of older women are from an earlier project about aging, beauty and wisdom. Growing older is a layering process, so by overprinting a cyanotype onto these portraits, our original intention was extended. We connected the process of living through phases of our own personal histories to nature’s processes.
The original portraits (under the cyanotypes) are from our series, All Things Are Always Changing, that connected back to age and history. We had been reflecting on the many strong women we have known in our lives–they are our role models. We made their portraits visually referencing Roman patrician portraiture, a manner that would honor them. We wanted to capture the way they lived into their strength and nobility as a process through time. It wasn’t about who the women are as much as how they are depicted that kept our interest.
Film’s not Dead: Could you please explain how you technically came to produce this piece of work?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: The process of cyanotype involves exposing paper that has been coated with a light-sensitive iron salt solution to UV light (such as sunlight). Any barrier to exposure (in this instance, the flowers) will be recorded as negative images and rendered as white shadows on the Prussian blue surface. This is the same process employed in making a photogram or blueprints. 
The original portraits were shot on 4 x 5 negatives, scanned and printed using digital printing methods. The prints were then coated with cyanotype solution, botanicals were arranged on the surface and the coated portrait exposed to sunlight for a few minutes. A water rinse clears the chemicals and the areas that were blocked by the botanicals reveal parts of the underlying portrait.
Film’s not Dead: What advice would you give to young aspiring photographers of today?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: Practice and develop your skills. There are so many things to be learned with silver, non-silver and digital processes! Evolve with the times. Meet other photographers. Have fun. 
Film’s not Dead: The photographic industry is forever evolving, what do you think about the state of photography today?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: So much image-making! So many amazing ways of looking at the world!  Photography has such plasticity, it embraces an enormous range of  image-making options. We know photographers who have a conceptual, digital practice, others are working with collodion emulsion, others who work with color film or collage. The state of photography is vast and grand and all of it remains relevant. 
Film’s not Dead: Is there anything else you would like to say to the Film’s not Dead readers?
Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman: Nothing dies in photography, and if you practice long enough, it seems that what was once old becomes new again.