March is Women’s History Month, a time to think about the immense contribution of women to all aspects of society in cultures all over the world. They truly hold up half the sky. Throughout March, Professional Women Photographers will take a look at the work and contributions of women artists. Today we are honored to present British artist Sadie Hennessy.
In 2010, Hennessy won the Jealous Graduate Art Prize for her final MA show (Accident & Emergency) at Central St. Martins. In 2011, she was artist-in-residence in the Croydon College of Art printmaking department, which culminated in a solo show called Freud in Dreamland at the Parfitt Gallery in January 2012. She exhibited work at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), Crunch Art Festival (2011), London Art Fair (2011) and Strange Hungers WW Gallery, EC1 (2012). She is currently Artist-in-Residence at Resort Studios, Margate.
PWP: Why is photography important in art and how is it being used in more than a “pure,” stand alone way?
SH: I think these days everyone thinks of themselves as a photographer, as we all document and curate so much of the minutiae of our everyday lives (using, mainly, the cameras in our phones). If something hasn’t been photographed, it almost didn’t happen. Perhaps that is why artists are doing other things with photographs, alongside pure photography–to push the form in other, less accessible directions. Personally, I am interested in old photos and found images, as they seem to have an inherent authenticity and carry a freight of unanswered questions–that appeals to me. I try and create images that reflect on contemporary life whilst simultaneously embodying a sense of nostalgia, so collage (digital and analogue) created using old photos works very well for me.
PWP: Can you tell us about the technique of photographic screenprinting?
SH: Yes, this is a four-color screenprinting process that only uses cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink (CMYK)–the same process as color newspaper printing (for example). I usually create my images in Photoshop (digitally), though sometimes make screenprints from scissors-and-glue collages too, which I photograph. When the image is ready, I convert it to 4 layers in Photoshop–the CMYK separations–and each of these is printed onto acetate. I then expose 4 separate screens (one for each layer) and print them in the following order: yellow, magenta, cyan and black. With luck the end result is quite photographic, but still clearly a hand-made print, due to the quality of the paper and the inks. I was initially inspired by Andy Warhol’s photographic screenprints, though his use a different technique than the one I’ve described. His most famous works tended to mix stencil printing with a single, black photographic layer.
PWP: Tell us how your work relates to issues of gender?
SH: I consider myself to be a feminist artist, and all my work relates to the way I see the world as a woman. As I get older, I am particularly interested in portraying the experience of aging as a woman, in our youth-obsessed society. I use a lot of humor in my work, and hope I make my political points in both a thought-provoking and humorous way.
(Note: Hennessy’s work also explores darker themes as in the following triptych which reflects on the misogynistic phenomenon of acid attacks on women’s faces.)
– Catherine Kirkpatrick, Blog Editor
As this image from Darleen Rubin’s exhibition Before the Garden shows, the NYC “Save Our Libraries” campaign has been around for decades. But never was it more glamorous than in 1974 when it was graced by the New York Dolls.
In this exhibit, Rubin, who has been photographing her West Village neighborhood for many years, focuses on change at the Jefferson Market Library. There are images of the dismantling of the infamous women’s house of detention next door, the garden that replaced it, and the NY Dolls performance. A must for students of city history and change.
Free. Through Feb. 25. At Jefferson Market Library (425 Sixth Ave., at 10th St.). Mon./Wed 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues./Thurs. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Fri./Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m. For more info, visit nypl.org/events/exhibitions.
They work away like bees in a hive, quietly and industriously, in old manufacturing buildings in off-beat sections of the city. Artists, writers, designers, photographers. It’s always fascinating to visit and see work in progress. Recently I caught up with Mary Teresa Giancoli about her photographic exploration of Spanish culture in New York City and Mexico.
It’s not surprising to learn that Giancoli has a BA in Italian Culture from Wellesley College and an MFA in photography from Hunter. Her work combines a lush visual style with a deep interest in the customs of distinct Spanish communities. Her grandfather was born in Mexico, and many traditions were passed down through her mother’s side of the family. So it is not surprising that in the late 1990′s, Giancoli was drawn to photograph the Mexican communities in New York.
She began the project on December 12, 1997 in Our Lady of Guadalupe, a small church on West 14th Street where the mass is said in Spanish. She established a connection through a guitarist who was willing to serve as her guide into the community. She relied on natural light and asked permission before taking pictures. She worked on her Spanish. Still, it took a long time for her to “break in,” and she attended many events all over the city, slowly accumulating a body of work.
After the opening of a solo show at the UAM (universidad autónoma metropolitana) in México City, Giancoli visited the small town of Cuetzalan, halfway between Puebla and Veracruz. It is rural and lush, struggling to improve itself economically while trying to hold onto traditional ways.
She was drawn to the Maseualsiuamej, a cooperative of women who banded together in 1985 to gain independence. They broke economic ties with men, got a micro loan to manage an eco-hotel, established a tortilla factory, and began to sell their beautiful needlework in the markets to gringos.
Which strikes a note because the organization I am writing for, Professional Women Photographers, was founded by women photographers banding together to help other women photographers because at the time, no one else would. It was 1975, and there were few opportunities for women in the field. All of those who forged ahead have stories, some funny, some sad, about discrimination, and most struggled fiercely to survive.
Giancoli’s photographs capture the rhythm and texture of the Cuetzalan women’s lives, from their brightly colored home interiors to the beautiful blouses they make, which incorporate symbolically local flora and fauna–wild turkeys, lush vegetation, and exotic fruit like maracuya.
Giancoli also photographed a festival in which young women compete to represent their area and customs. As she describes it: “The festival of the Huipil (from Nahuatl, an Aztec language, meaning blouse or dress) revives indigenous customs in music, dance as a response to people who were displaced from their land and beliefs.”
“The Huipil contest is held in October to honor a young woman. Contestants are fourteen to twenty years old, fluent in their native tongue, Nahuatl and Spanish, know how to weave and perform domestic work in rural communities. The young women are judged on their beauty and purity of their customs. The Tatiaxas, a council of men, delivers the vote of the winner in a hat to the lead Tatiaxa. The Huipil Queen is carried through town, and dancing breaks out in the Plaza of San Francisco.”
When she came, the people of Cuetzalan told Giancoli they had been photographed before, but never seen any pictures. Not only did she win their trust, but gave them back beautiful and sincere images of themselves.
To see more, visit her website. All the photographs are archival digital prints on solid bamboo, 15″ x 15.” She will open her studio during the Long Island City Festival of the Arts on Saturday, May 17th 3-6 pm, and Sunday May 18th 3-6 pm, and by appointment. She will also lead a photo tour along the waterfront on May 17th.
In a personal document, John Milisenda has photographed his family, mother, father and brother for almost fifty years. These images are in museums and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art, and Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and have been in over one hundred and thirty shows. Milisenda has taught basic photography, the Zone System and Photographic Chemistry at Drexel University, the New School For Social Research and Parsons School of Design. He has written articles for Modern Photography and Photo Methods Magazine. Currently he works with methods that combine digital and traditional photography. In keeping with his interest in and deep knowledge of photographic processes, he maintains a darkroom in which he mixes all his chemistry, and experiments with various papers and films.
Milisenda is a native New Yorker who found quiet poetry in the Lower East Side neighborhood where he grew up, and in his family which he has photographed over many years. Click here to see a short video photo-essay of his work on his developmentally disabled brother:
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- Catherine Kirkpatrick
Professional Women Photographers’ member Meryl Meisler is featured in Omens of Climate Change at Manhattan’s Westbeth Gallery from February 1 – 16. Her exhibition space (two rooms!) is devoted to her Immersions series featuring New York City landmark buildings submerged under water and filled with aquatic creatures.
PWP: You are known for your tough pictures of Bushwick in the 1980′s. Why did you turn to a subject matter that embraces lightness and whimsey?
MM: In addition to being an art teacher in the New York City school system, I was also a freelance illustrator, and did a lot of work for educational publishers, including the New York Times Science Times, and Scholastic (Sea Otters: Little Clowns of The Sea).
When I was teaching in Bushwick, I started painting directly on my Cibachrome prints in a whimsical fashion. I also became a certified scuba diver, bought an underwater Nikonos camera and flash, and began photographing my underwater adventures in Florida, Mexico, the Bahamas, Honduras and Florida. I read Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne and had visions of my beloved New York City submerged like Atlantis.
My work was published in Print Magazine and Zoom, and in 1991, I got a call from the art director of a new software company who selected me to come to the Maine Center for Creative Imaging to be among the first artists trained by Apple and Adobe to work on the Macintosh Computer with a new application: Adobe Photoshop. I was hooked, and began making digital images and mixed media sculptures based on aquatic themes.
PWP: What was involved in gaining access to the buildings?
MM: In 1995, I was selected by the MTA Arts for Transit to create an installation in twelve light boxes in Grand Central Station. My proposal to was “submerge” the terminal digitally, and I received permission to photograph there with a tripod and medium format camera. The resulting installation, Grand Splash, 1995-1996, was a huge success, the MTA’s first exhibit of digital work. It was featured in WIRED Magazine and Print Magazine, in addition to TimeOut and other periodicals.
I wanted to continue, and worked for three years to get permission to photograph the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue without paying licensing or rental costs (typically thousands of dollars).
I was also commissioned by the MTA Arts for Transit to create Submerged, an edition of 4,000 posters installed throughout the NYC transit system from 2001-2002. It went up on the day of my 50th birthday–what a celebration! I started “turtle watching,” going to every station throughout the city to see my poster, which was also a self portrait. The Submersions series was awarded a NYFA Catalogue grant.
The Immersions series was the main focus of my work from 1991 on, but during a 2002 exhibit at the ISE Cultural Foundation, my world collapsed. My father passed away suddenly, and my mother who had Alzheimer’s, required full time nursing care. I was very close to my parents, and the mourning and loss was deep and profound. After that, Immersions no longer seemed relevant to my life.
PWP: What‘s coming up next?
MM: In June 2014, coinciding with Bushwick Open Studios, I have a solo show, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick opening at the Bizarre Black Box Gallery. I frequented and documented the hottest NYC discos in the late 70’s early 80’s, but have never shown these pictures. Juxtaposed with Bushwick images from the early 80s and now, the installation will have the look and feel of a disco. The “Bridge and Tunnel” crowd barred from those velvet ropes and disco doors is now the hip crowd!
So many images, so little time!
Interview by Catherine Kirkpatrick