Ever since my bamboo plant "Cactus" was featured in last week's Ego section on "Best Looking Pets," my stalky companion has developed a little ego of her own. But unlike the botanical photography here at Street, resident artist Susan Abrams photographs mist from a certain printing technique called "applied silver emulsion," not airbrushing. (Sorry, Cactus.)
Move over, Mrs. Dalloway, this 53-year-old artist prints the flowers herself. Abram's work, which features large photographs of natural life on handmade paper, combines her two disciplines of photography and papermaking. These mixed media pieces explore the interaction of natural textures at various states. However, Abrams' collection of 20 life size works, on display at the Nexus Gallery this upcoming Friday, involves different proportions and subject matter than her previous work.
The photographs exchange their usual medium of handmade paper for an expanded wardrobe of linen and silk. "Photography and hand papermaking are both process-centered," Abrams explains. "There are a lot more variables that come in to the mix than when you're printing on commercial paper. So at every step there are opportunities for interaction and discovery ... as well as the unexpected." Abraham's work, likewise, makes unconventional use of traditional subject and processes. "This is totally on the other spectrum of digital photography."
Yet for Abrams, people (who will be a further addition to her usual flora-centric prints) can be even less predictable than pulp. In the exhibition, her photographs of plant life are layered with portraits of women, from the ages of 25 to 90, printed on fabric. Depending on the direction the light, and which side of the instillation you stand on, these sheer veils will expose the portraits through or against the other materials. "There's obviously a lot more interaction with people in these pieces than with other recent work, which can be good. Though as the photographer I decide when to release the shutter, people pose the way they want to be seen in a picture ... Plants are not self-conscious," she points out with a laugh. If only more were.