Artists Jennifer Schlesinger, Ann George, and Emma Powell share an interest in reviving antiquated, imaginative uses of photography to create expressive, magical effects. At The Lionheart Gallery this fall, the three present their respective works in a new exhibition, “Other Worlds: Dreamy Narratives by Three Visionary Women Photographers.” Approaching photography as a surrealistic art form, each uses the medium in unconventional ways.
Jennifer Schlesinger employs unusual means to create her photographs, producing albumen prints, an antique process that involves using egg whites as a binder for black-and-white photosensitive chemicals. Her prints have a trippy, uncanny visual texture. Schlesinger explains, “Albumen, as a medium, helps to convince the viewer that these landscapes do exist, as our societal association with the 19th-century albumen prints were deemed true renditions of the time and place in which they were taken.” Utopia 1 (2013) shows a strange vista—a river passing through hills under moonlight—with the bushes in the foreground, water, and night sky rendered with exceptional sharpness. The rolling terrain beyond the riverbank appears abstracted, glowing beautifully under the illumination of the moon. Likewise, her print Her Not There No. 18 (2013) sits psychedelically in the space between photograph and painting, with glowing footprints under a cloudy night sky.
Emma Powell also uses a rare photographic process to create dreamlike imagery. Her cyanotype prints are made with a combination of light-sensitive chemicals that produce a startling and beautiful blue-and-white image. They’re toned with tea or wine, adding extra layers of colorful depth and contrast. The images in her self-portrait series, “In Search of Sleep,” come from childhood bedtime stories invented by her father. Shelter (2012) depicts Powell alone, leaning against a wooden fence. Behind her stands the crumbled remains of a neoclassical building surrounded by the barren trees of a wintertime forest. The psychological intensity of the landscape is reminiscent of work by early 20th-centurySurrealists like Leonora Carrington and Giorgio de Chirico.
Ann George creates narrative imagery based on her youth in Louisiana. She says of her work, “I have always wanted my photographs to demonstrate those special feelings of my childhood.” George uses contemporary and historical photographic processes, and sometimes employs treatments like glazes and waxes to create added textural depth. Raising Georges (2012), from her series “Gumbo,” depicts a baboon eating in a fine restaurant, the waiter adjusting the table’s serviceware. The dim light gives the image a fantasy quality, but George’s sharp rendering of the scene provides the gravity of realism. Other images in the series use surface effects that lend a faded, nostalgic atmosphere.
Each artist produces photographs rich with allusive imagery, and together the trio exemplifies a new generation playing with the medium, experimenting with its effects and ability to represent reality.
“Other Worlds: Dreamy Narratives by Three Visionary Women Photographers” is on view at The Lionheart Gallery, Pound Ridge, New York, Sept. 12th–Oct. 26th, 2014.