Monday, October 14, 2013

PHD Gallery: Saturday, 2 November 2013

An Altered Reality: Surreal Photo Still Life and Hand Woven Photographs
Linda Mueller. Emily Stremming.

November 2 through November 30, 2013.
Opening Reception, Saturday November 2, 2013, from 7 to 10pm.

Lily Tomlin once mused, “Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.” In An Altered Reality, two women use cameras to create images that stretch verisimilitude to the breaking point. Linda Mueller uses pixel manipulation to create still lifes that look like Salvador Dali paintings. Emily Stremming employs a sharp blade and a hands-on weaving technique to create photographic cityscapes that appear pixelated. Each woman shoots photographs of a familiar reality then, through radical reconstruction, creates an altered reality that is recognizable, yet strangely unfamiliar. Twenty-four images are on view at PHD Gallery from November 2- 30, 2013 with a free public reception for the artists on Saturday, November 2, from 7-10PM.

Inspired by the still life painting of Georges Braque, Mueller considers her work object portraiture. On the surface, the collection of photographs represents owned objects. In actuality, it is an interpretation of personal stories and history. The portraits are intimate glimpses into what objects individuals cherish which attempt to blur the lines between memories, recollections, and character. In one image we see an open suitcase atop an antique medical cabinet. The case contains hundreds of dollars, two snakes intertwined, and a freshly pressed sports shirt. We begin to realize that the case and the cabinet have impossible perspective and that lids and drawers could not possibly close, and that, in fact, everything is tilted slightly forward. Another still life shows a nightstand with an ax and a bible on top and a porcelain clock precariously balanced on two legs. In another image we see only a chair in a room with windows overlooking a wooded area. The chair combines multiple angles that do not relate, yet, like a staircase from an Escher drawing, they somehow come together. Though Mueller’s images defy basic physics, they illuminate basic challenges of human existence.

Delving into photographic theory including the writing of Roland Barthes, Stremming challenges the qualities and limitations of the photographic medium and the connotations that apply to the language of photography. She creates images that go against the notion of a photographs being a reproducible object. The digital revolution of photography has made her question the ways in which a photograph can be constructed. Choosing cityscapes as her subject matter, Stremming uses a large format camera to capture clarity, but more importantly, to combine old traditions with new ones. She creates archival pigment prints that are physically deconstructed, then reconstructed by literally cutting them to ribbons, and then employing a traditional weaving technique to put them back together. The process of weaving two similar images together not only slows down the process of physically constructing the image by hand, but it also allows the viewer to read the image more slowly, in a fragmented form that, oddly enough, mimics a pixilated image. Each woven digital print is a one of a kind confluence of modern and historical process.

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