No. 153 - Fall Issue 2021 : REBELS AND RENEGADES
Thank you SHOTS SPONSORS!
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Donna Garcia [Link]
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Alain Laboile [Link]
1 Mike Baker: Bolingbrook, IL
17 Tom Bode: Portland, OR
28 Anderson Clark: Weymouth, MA
23 Barbara Colbert: Bolingbrook, IL
c, 7 Sinden Collier: Houston, TX
20 L. Andrés Esteban: Zaragoza, Spain
31 DebiLynn Fendley: Arkadelphia, AR
10 Natalie Finney: Melbourne, Australia
4-5 Emily Neville Fisher: Bedford, NY
41 Ellen Giamportone: Los Angeles, CA
25 Lara Gilks: Wellington, New Zealand
43 Edite Haberman: Mill Valley, CA
16 Frank Hamrick: Ruston, LA
35 Alan Hans: Woodstock, NY
36 Brooke K. Holland: Camden, ME
37 Robin Hultgren: Walnut Creek, CA
11 Michael Joseph: Boston, MA
12 Robert Kalman: Brewster, NY
39 Michael Kirchoff: Van Nuys, CA
15 Olivia Koziel: Lancaster, PA
3, 40 Prescott Moore Lassman: Washington, D.C.
33 James Lattanzio: Montclair, NJ
30 Anitra Lavanhar: Tulsa, OK
32 Patrick Loehr: Arvada, CO
bc Barry McNew: Greenville, TX
19 Dru Nadler: Cheshire, CT
14 Angel O'Brien: Portland, OR
6, 38 Lyle Owerko: Los Angeles, CA
24 Christine Pearl: Tuscon, AZ
18 Ben Rains: Bloomington, IN
29 Michael Ross: Nashville, TN
34 Paul David Shea: Lancaster, PA
9 Tod A. Smith: New Orleans, LA
8 Russ Styles: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
22 Ginny Troutman: Fall River, MA
2 Elisabeth Waller: Bristol, VT
42 Al Weems: Sutton, MA
13, 26-27 Lea Lund and Erik K.: Arles, France
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Donna Garcia
Interview by Elizabeth Flinsch
ELIZABETH FLINSCH: What is the first photograph you remember making? How has your vision changed since then?
DONNA GARCIA: I remember at a very early age loving to photograph animals, which I continue to do today. I love to play with ideas of animals as symbols, and what they have come to mean in various cultures, like the purity of the white horse, the courage of the lion, the trickster crow or butterflies as reincarnated spirits. Semiotics, or visual language, has always organically flowed through my work to convey meaning, through signs, symbols, metaphors, and unconventional codes. This semiotic transference that speaks to the viewer happened almost from the beginning. My visuals suppress my role as creator and I assumed the role of narrator (and sometimes subject), in the interest of allowing the viewer to be free in their interpretation.
The first photographs that I would consider in the realm of Fine Art for me were black and white, medium format photos taken with an old Rolleiflex. I loved creating double exposures, and images that played with motion and liminal space. The world has always felt fragile and unstable to me, and my work reflected that very early on in my image making.
I think what has changed the most is that I really transitioned from finding images to creating images. The lens became less of a judge in the work; the idea of reproduction and reportage became ambiguous. There is a gap in what is expected and what you are presented with now, making my images feel like something is not quite right. This level of uncertainty is unexpected in photographs and reveals liminal moments that are indeterminate vs. the straight reportage nature of photography to replicate what it sees. The evolution of my work verifies that the photographic image is not determinate, despite its origins.
Are there photographers that inspired your work early on? What drew you to them?
I would say that my work is most influenced by German Expressionist Cinema of the 1920’s, like directors Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene and F.W. Murnau, I allow light to influence my process in order to emphasize, or often over-emphasize, the relief or outline of a person or object. Allowing light to deform or transform the shapes of things is a constant in my art. Sometimes the impact of light is used to create depth without depth or exaggerated shadows. This interplay of contrasts and counter contrasts culminate with a half-tangible, half-unreal atmosphere or mood. Through the function of light and shadows mood can manifest itself in various elements and composites of external life to reveal inner realities, while communicating a message.
I view abstraction in a very similar way as the directors of Expressionist cinema, which is clear in my series, Two Moons. Abstraction is something stemming from the great anxiety that we experience when confronted by the events we perceives around us, the relationships and mysterious polarities that we are unable to decipher. It manifests out of angst when confronted with unlimited space, which makes us want to detach objects of the exterior world from their natural context, or free individual objects from ties with other objects, to make them “complete” or understood.
Artists like Cindy Sherman and Francesca Woodman who address the male gaze with parody, irony and visual disruption also have influenced my work. They both take “representational codes” and use them in new ways and Woodman’s use of motion allows her images to be liberated from sexualization and аre allowed to truly be seen. She achieves “visibility in invisibility”. Robert Frank’s The Americans and Josef Koudelka’s Exiles still influence the way I think about lens-based art.
You talk about the uncanny in your work. Can you say more about how that plays out in your photographs?
Jentsch defined uncanny as the instance when something can be familiar and yet alien at the same time. He suggested that “unheimlich” was specifically in opposition to “heimlich”, which can mean “at home” and familiar, but also secret, concealed or private.
“Unheimlich” therefore was not just unknown, but also, Freud argued, bringing out something that was hidden or repressed. He called it “that class of frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar.” In my work the perspective is crafted so that the narrator/subject is the one “at home”, where things are familiar and the viewer is the outsider looking in, a stranger, the very definition of unfamiliar, secretive and hidden.
My images are visual representations of Parapraxis or the inadvertent slip of the tongue. They reveal a hidden truth, thus becoming a kind of unwilling, mistaken act of self-exposure. In psychoanalytic terms, it pro vides a surprising and unexpected self-revelation. The uncanny for me is not only a revelation of what is private and concealed, or what is hidden not only from others, but also from what is hidden from ourselves.
My method for creating imagery allows for a visual kind of Para praxis to manifest. The work is allowed to create itself, in camera, with little to no postproduction. Through the use of slow exposure, motion and light/shadow influence, which crosses the threshold where subject and object become one, a transcendent moment is created, like a slip of the tongue, when a repressed truth is revealed.
My work interconnects psychoanalytic and aesthetic theories with imagery to develop its own premises of the uncanny, a feeling of beauty inhibited, represented by myself as the artist, and my exposed psyche, which often resides in my double through the use of self-portraiture. This takes the work beyond Freud’s ideas about defamation of the body, and Jentsch’s views of the uncanny as something that appears to be familiar (what we see vs. what we know). In my work what becomes truly uncanny is the revelation and exposure of an unbounded self.
Here we are looking at images from your series Two Moons. How did this series come about?
This series, Two Moons, was initially to be focused on the idea of animism, which is throughout my art. My pictures are always indexical images, meaning they are floating, indeterminate and particularly evocative. They reflect a grounding in being, not acting in a concrete fashion, and a sense of being is not fixed. My work mirrors self in everything and God or Spirit in all. It shows nature as a type of animas.
With Two Moons mood is created through abstraction, done in various ways, causing an alternate reality to be exposed when the appearance of certainty is eroded. When things shift from secure and safe to a reality that is indeterminate. By abstracting what is recognizable, forms detach themselves from their literal nature and are then capable of isolating the most significant expression within their true meaning.
However, as I began to reflect on my images as a whole and started to write about the work, I realized that this series was also about fear and loss. It really reflects my fears of normalcy never returning and the loss of human life, the loss of dreams, and the void left by the expectations we once had of day-to-day life.
Over the last 18 months I have spent every day hiking at the same nature preserve. It has become not only my refuge but also I feel it has become a part of me. I can feel it’s residual energy everywhere that I go. Its memory has become merged with my own personal memory. It is comforting, but also uncertain. Will this refuge fall? Nature here is alert, listening, watching, and protecting.
There is a strong presence self alienation in these images. The future self is unknown, and the past self no longer exists, as we knew it. The self is confined to the present and in many ways is being consumed by its own environment as protection.
What is on the horizon for you and your work? Are there particular projects you are excited to embark upon or continue?
I have just started a series of color images that will focus on how the intersection between private lives and societal norms/gender roles in 20th century America has shaped where we are now. It will be my first series completely in color.
Advocating Indigenous art, artists and issues will continue into 2022 for me. I am working on fundraising around expanding purchase awards specifically designed for mainstream museums to be able to add Indigenous, lens-based art/artists to their permanent collections. ■
All Images © Donna Garcia
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Alain Laboile
By Douglas Beasley
Image © Alain Laboile
This photograph, from Alain’s series ‘La Famille,’ of the artist’s daughter who is seemingly bowed down in reverence or prayer to a small fawn is one of the most awe-inspiring photographs I know of. Its quiet simplicity takes my breath away every time I encounter it and never ceases to amaze me with its power and grace, reminding me of how photography can touch the mystery when we get out of the way. ■