This installation explores the complex relationship between self-portraiture, time, and memory. The self-portrait is a means to constantly redefine and separate myself from the “family album.” The album snapshots we collect of ourselves throughout our lifetime are typically joyous, smiling moments taken during holidays, birthday parties, and celebrations. Often these smiles hide the reality that lies beneath, disguising a sad feeling, an angry memory, or a hidden passion. Too many times we forget that the snapshot is only a split-second—there was a before and an after that is not recorded. Each of my images is a “new” snapshot; one that, while still only a fraction of a second, can encompass and illustrate a broader range of time and emotion. The self-portraits act as mirrors, reflections, and distorted versions of who I am, have been, and will become. They are also an action, a ritual, a reflection on my past to help me better understand and experience who I am as an individual.
Through the use of Polaroid sheet film and a Holga camera, I am able to capture the snapshot aesthetic and vernacular photography. I manipulate the Polaroid peel-apart film with light bulbs to solarize and use various chemicals and tools to alter the surface. The resulting images are scanned and further altered digitally. Final output is 26x26 inch pigment prints.
When I left the States, originally for Belize, I left behind my darkroom. In these years, I have nearly forgotten the artist side of myself because of this, and most new friends do not even know it existed in the first place.
It has now been nearly 3 years without, and, little by little, I am rebuilding. My new country of Mexico is inspirational in this, or maybe it is far too much time passed, maybe both. In the meantime and during these years, I have resorted to iphone images and my old digital camera to help me get by... tools I was never fond of as a darkroom artist. But I played around and explored what I had, and digital image-making sufficed as a tool. These are a few of those explorations.
Conceptually, the common thread within much of this is water and the tropics. First living on a small island of only a few miles in length, surrounded and engulfed by water, I found an incredible ignition of creative energy. Matching that with a miscarriage and an ex-boyfriend living on the same island who plagued me daily with threatening and abusive behavior... Being far away from home... It was a complex and emotionally charged time. These images speak to this, as well as the transitional phase of leaving island life and the period of mental and physical abuse behind me, bound for Mexico, again alone, but with strong and healthy hopes in front of me.
I will continue this series; an ongoing journey I suppose will never end. I do not want it to. The title, Inland Sea, was inspired by a single line from David Mitchell's book The Bone Clocks: "I felt like a minnow being tipped from a jar into a deep inland sea." That idea moved me - The negative and positive connotation of the unknown, that feeling of terror, that feeling of freedom.
Performances: One’s Part in This is a study of a tumultuous romantic relationship. Utilizing an intuitive, psychological approach within the intimate environment of my home studio, each session evolved into a performance and a ritual between myself, my lover, and the 5x7 camera. The scenes I create are not heavily planned out; pre-visualization is kept to a minimum. I leave the stage as open as possible so that the sitter is able to portray what he is feeling within that moment, allowing the poses and resulting images to communicate something about our relationship.
Post-visualization is key in these portraits. Making the negative is the first step of many, and gives me a solid ground on which to build. Allowing the large negative to speak to me as if it were an introduction to a story, I then employ other tools and materials such as toners, dyes, chemical stains, old books and their pages and parts, charcoals and paints, and needle and thread to communicate the middle and end of the tale. The results are portraits which reveal a story (sometimes real, sometimes imagined) of my sitter, our relationship, and ultimately of my Self.
Each image is one of a kind, silver gelatin print, all with hand manipulation.
A selection of works from 2004 - 2016. All are handmade, one of a kind.
Ritual & Relic is a body of work which was created after a long break of art-making in 2010. I purposefully decided to veer far of course from my usual photographic content of portraits, and create works of the natural environment around my then-home situated on nearly 200 acres of land in western NC. This was a personal exercise and examination of how art-making is a ritualistic process for myself, and how ultimately, and sometimes sentimentally, each piece created inevitably becomes relic-- a simple object, with or without importance, but fundamentally describing something about a time or a person. Utilizing the wet place collodion process allowed me to further explore the idea of ritual and object, with the result being an ambrotype -- a relic of photographic history on a piece of glass.
All images here are 4.25" x 5.25" wet plate collodion ambrotypes.
Brie Castell was owner and Chief Curator of Castell Photography Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina from 2009 - 2015. As one of the south's finest galleries specializing in contemporary photo-based media, Castell worked with both established and emerging artists from around the globe for exhibition and representation, and brought to Asheville leading authorities in the field of photography from around the country for educational programming. Heidi Gruner worked alongside Castell as Director of the gallery, and the two curated more than 40 exhibitions and organized a number of workshops and lectures.
The gallery here showcases just a few of the dynamic exhibitions. All poster designs by Heidi Gruner, check out her fabulous work here.