Solo exhibition: November 1-25, 2018
Upstream Gallery, 8 Main Street, Hastings-on-Hudson, NY
Reception: Sunday, November 4, 2018, 2-5 pm
Gallery Hours: Thursday through Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm
Contact: 914 674 8548 or Upstream Gallery
Interview: ©Nancy Egol Nikkal (October 2018)
Susan Richman was born in Washington, PA, earned a BFA in photography from George Washington University and a BFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. She successfully ran the Susan Richman Photography Studio in NYC, shooting both advertising and editorial projects. Her current studio practice is focused on photography projects and creating works for gallery exhibition. Susan Richman is an educator at the International Center of Photography. She lives and works in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.
At her website, Richman says: “I am an interpreter of what surrounds me, and the camera is my instrument of choice…My latest works deal with capturing the ephemeral state of our surroundings by photographing objects created within ice.” Her objects are temporary sculptures. Her technique involves mixing chemicals into dyes, layering objects within the chemical solution, freezing and melting the solution, and photographing the temporary sculpture before it melts. She wants her photographs to reveal layers, altered shapes and a range of colors as light passes through the icy sculpture. Richman shoots film, scans and then prints archival digital prints. The frozen sculptures melt. The original materials within no longer exist. The films and digital photographs are preserved.
Re>Formations includes two new series that are the product of these creative experiments. Richman loves the process in the darkroom and says it’s fun.
The image above is titled “Susurus Stratum” (Whispering Layers) and dated 2018. This work is part of the first series included in the exhibition. It’s an archival pigment print and the framed size is 35”x35”. The circular image shows tiny green botanicals floating in a transparent icy blue solution. The botanicals include grasses, leaves, seedpods and hydrangea petals that Richman finds while walking her dog or gardening in her backyard.
The image above is titled Lilacinus Vitro (Lilac Glass) and dated 2018. This work is part of the second series included in the exhibition. The media is Duratran Film in a LED Light Box. The size is 36”x36” and the image shows a glass sculpture that was made from shards of broken perfume bottles. Richman said a friend who is a perfume bottle designer gave her the bottles. Her glass is clear. The dyes in the icy solution give the image its color. She said the light passing through the broken glass produced wonderful abstract images and inspired her to further explore the relationships between glass shapes, light and color.
Richman’s process is a little like paper marbling. She adds chemicals into a water solution to make it thick, then adds dyes, inks, food coloring and spray silicone to separate colors. She describes the process as aqueous surface design. She may add more chemicals and dyes as she builds up layers to create a frozen sculpture with botanicals (the first series) or embedded objects (the second series).
Throughout the process, Richman freezes, melts and scrapes away what needs to be removed. The frozen sculpture becomes a still life subject for her photo-shoot, and the final product is an archival pigment print and/or the Duratran Film in a LED light box.
The image above is titled Sanguine Vitro (Blood Red Glass) and dated 2018. This work is part of the second series in the exhibition. The media is Duratran Film in a LED Light Box. The size is 36”x36” and the image is a sculpture with broken glass. Richman said the glass shards can’t be too large and must be carefully placed as she builds the sculpture so that nothing obstructs the passage light through the glass. Richman sometimes adds inks and bubbles to the icy solution so the glass shards look like they are submerged in water and look 3 dimensional.
In both series, Richman uses a white background as she photographs the sculptures in her darkroom. She works with mirrors to reflect light through the sculptures, and adjusts lights as well as tilts the sculptures in the process. Richman says sometimes the solution around the sculpture melts and has to be refrozen.
After the photo-shoot, the original materials are discarded, the icy sculptures no longer exists – but the film and prints are preserved.
I asked Richman what sparked her interest in photographing objects in ice. She said she saw an exhibition with photos of ice cubes at the International Center for Photography (ICP) in New York 6-7 years ago. She noticed the ice cubes had cracks that looked like incised lines and she decided she wanted to photograph ice.
Richman is working with a lot of chemistry. Her darkroom practice is a combination of science and art. Her images look like slides that are viewed under a microscope. I asked how she works with the chemicals and if she wears gloves. She says she doesn’t wear gloves. I asked if her darkroom looks like a lab. She says her kitchen looks like a laboratory when she’s working.
Meet Susan Richman at the Upstream Gallery reception, Sunday, November 4th (2-5 pm). See the exhibition during regular gallery hours, Thursday to Sunday, 12:30-5:30 pm. For information and gallery directions, call 914.674.8548 or visit the Upstream Gallery website. See more work by the artist at her website.