Sally Mann, ‘Night Blooming Cereus’, 1988, Edwynn Houk Gallery

“Night Blooming Cereus" features the artist’s oldest daughter, Jessie, with the flower draped around her neck. The nose and mouth are the only visible parts of the face, a compositional or framing device that Sally Mann used many times throughout her career. It gives a little more mystery and universality to the photograph, rather than being an identifiable portrait. Using an 8x10 in. camera, she focused directly on the flowers, and the resulting detail is extraordinary. The petals of the flowers have a palpable texture that is both realistic and sculptural, and the contrast between the flowers and the child’s highlighted lips are beautifully captured. And because of the sharp focus on the flowers, the child’s skin and the landscape behind her become a dreamy-like landscape with highlights of abstract shadows and dappled sunlight.

Sadly, the jpeg doesn’t do the artwork justice at all. The key to the success of this image is not only in the image, but also in the incredibly beautifully printing. The complexity of the textures is what you just can’t capture in a jpg: the richness of tonality, the unimaginable lushness and volume of the thick flower petals against the soft skin of the body. It is in perfect harmony.

As you may know, since Sally labors over every print and does all of her own printing, she stopped printing or selling anything from the Immediate Family series in 2004 so that she could focus on newer work. So, all of the works from the Immediate Family are only available on the secondary market. Since all sales originated through our gallery, we often have an inventory of works available, but we just happened to get this print of "Night Blooming Cereus" very recently in the gallery from the original collector who purchased it from us in 1988. Since this is one of Sally’s most sought after works, it is rare for us to have the work available for very long!

Sally Mann printed each work in two sizes: an 8 x 10 contact print (which means that the print is the same size as the negative….she uses one of those very traditional large-format cameras that is on a tripod and she has to wear a hood, etc) and 20 x 24 in. enlargement prints. Each size was available in an edition of 25, but Sally Mann always kept numbers 1/25 and 2/25 as her Master prints, and edition numbers 21-25/25 were never printed. So, if an image was popular and sold out, there would have been only 18 prints sold in each size.

Night Blooming Cereus was sold out in both sizes within three months of it’s release. We were very fortunate to get this print on consignment from the original buyer and it is in excellent condition. It truly is an exquisite print. I’ll look forward to hearing your response.

Signature: Signed, titled, dated and editioned, in pencil, on verso.

About Sally Mann

While photographs of poignant Southern landscapes and historic architecture earned Sally Mann initial accolades, it was her portraits of girls captured in the ephemeral moment between childhood innocence and womanly sophistication that solidified her reputation as provocateur. “Family Pictures” (1984-1991) emerged out of intimate, black-and-white photographs of her own young children, often nude, going about their daily lives—eating, sleeping, and playing. Besides eliciting controversy over her sexually charged images of children, Mann is noted for using large-format cameras—sometimes with damaged lenses that admit light leaks and imperfections—to reveal the uncanny beauty in her subjects, be they decomposing corpses, Civil War battlefields, or her own family. More recently, she has revisited the 19th-century process of wet collodion on glass plates, which captures fine details, but requires exposing and developing the film within 15 minutes. Limited control over the process leads to what Mann describes as “happy accidents” in her work.

American, b. 1951, Lexington, Virginia, based in Lexington, Virginia

Exhibition Highlights On Artsy

Sally Mann Box - ABMB 2016, Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
Sally Mann - Poems and Photographs, 21st Editions, The Art of the Book
Sally Mann "Southern Landscape", 21st Editions, The Art of the Book
Sally Mann: Six Rivers, Reynolds Gallery, Richmond