Category Archives: Photography

Darkly Dreaming: Photographer Mariah Channing

Lock and Key, by Mariah Channing.

Lock and Key, by Mariah Channing.

Ten minutes ago I was supposed to meet photographer Mariah Channing at Barsa, the stylish tapas place on King.  I’m working on a project and don’t mind that she’s late- but when my phone rings, and its her, we discover we’ve both arrived early and have been waiting separately.  Channing waves across the restaurant, and comes over carrying her laptop and glass of water.

With her winged eye liner, bow shaped lips, cat-eye glasses and a scattering of tattoos winking out from under her charcoal colored tee, Channing could be one of those mischievous sylphs on the cover of an alternative magazine.  Her cameo necklace swings on a long thin silver chain as she sits, looking dreamily distracted, like a cat that’s just woken from a sunlit nap.

“I’ve been working on website stuff all day at the studio.  Then I was at the Orange Spot- have you ever tried their cayenne tea?”

“ I haven’t,” I say, and she tells me its to die for.

She places her laptop between us and shows me her photographs.

“This one here, with the magnolias, that was an adventure.”

Flower Portrait, by Mariah Channing

Flower Portrait, by Mariah Channing

“I bought this kiddie pool without really thinking about how I was going to make it all work.  On the day of the shoot, I had to blow the whole thing up by myself and then run back and forth into the photo room with a pitcher to fill it up before my model came- and all these art students are sitting around outside Redux, sketching away and staring at me, wondering out what I was doing.  I picked all the flowers by hand from trees by the side of the road.  The model was from Model Mayhem.  She was great.”

Channing crosses her hands over the back of her laptop, resting her chin over them with a sigh.  “This cameo shape is hard to fit a picture inside.  The shape is just so busy to begin with- I think maybe it just doesn’t work.  I’m going to move towards using a circle frame.  But this one,” she taps a cameo, “was in the Piccolo Spoleto exhibition.”

Magnolias, by Mariah Channing

Magnolias, by Mariah Channing

We talk about round frames, and those beautiful antique photographs you can find sometimes at thrift stores with the domed glass.  “Those are the best,” she sighs.

Where do her ideas come from?

She keeps a sketchbook.

“Words or doodles?”

“Both! and if a symbol comes to mind, I’ll define it for myself, too.  Writing stuff all around it.”  She scribbles in the air.

“Making kind of a mind map?”

“Yes, exactly.  And I write down ideas for costumes and postures too.”

Channing sources her costumes from antique and thrift stores, and also uses found objects.  “When I moved into Redux I found a super little-teeny-tiny hatched egg outside on the sidewalk.  It seemed like a good omen, you know?  So I kept it, I still have it.  I’d like to take more walks in the woods and find stuff…”

I tell her a rambling story about a pig’s skull I acquired (we ordered a pigs head for dinner one night at The Green Door, which was delicious albeit exceptionally porky), how I put it in the yard to be cleaned by ants.  But a raccoon or something ran off with it… my friend was going to put me in touch with some witches he knew who said they would let me sit in on a ceremony in exchange for bringing the skull.  But the skull had been my ticket, so without it…

Untitled.  (Channing hates naming her photographs.)

Untitled, by Mariah Channing.

Channing laughs. “I follow this guy on Facebook who finds these great bugs. He builds moth traps, with this great big white sheet…”

Occasionally she does boudoir photography.  “In college I became fascinated with classical nudes.  And Venus, Venus was my favorite.  I just think its neat, especially in this generation when women they they have to look a certain way.  This is a way they can fall in love with themselves again.”

Eventually, she says, she’d like to open a photography business.  She tilts her head on her hands to catlike effect.  “I have an idea, a kind of a two pronged approach as to how to do it, but I’m going to keep it under wraps for now.”

One of her pieces won best in photography at the Salon de Refuses, a show that was coincidental with the Young Contemporaries at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and recently participated in a group show with the Charleston Female Photographers at the North Charleston Arts Festival.  

Memento Mori, by Mariah Channing.  Best in Photography, Salon de Refuses.

Memento Mori, by Mariah Channing. Best in Photography, Salon de Refuses.

She’s offering special edition matted photographs through Charleston’s Supported Art program, which offers glamorous baskets of art from six local artists to shareholders- sign up today to support local art!- and can be reached through Facebook or her website for questions and commissions.

-article by Pauline West, a novelist and writer for Redux Contemporary Art Center.  Her novel Evening’s Land recently won the Helene Wurlitzer Fellowship Award.

Kimberly Witham’s Wunderkammer: Lovely Bones

DeerLemonCucumber

Kimberly Witham, who has a cool, firm handshake and uses words like “whack-a-doodle,” wants you to know most of her work doesn’t actually involve taxidermy.

“Mostly,” she says, “the animals are just straight up dead.”

It’s chilly in Charleston, late in the afternoon, and she is wearing a yellow peacoat, a cozy sweater with large buttons, jeans and cowboy boots.  She has short blonde hair and a frank, wide-set gaze.

Pointing out a tiny cut on the belly of a silvery blue snake, she tells me she’s been photographing road kill since 2007.

“See, he was probably clipped by a lawnmower.  This one was interesting.  With roadkill, you know, most things are stuck in rigor.  But snakes are flexible.  They have a little give.  So I wrapped him in position around this vase with wire, and stuck him in the freezer.”

She stepped back, looking at it.  “But it’s amazing how fast snakes melt.”

She’d poised him to coil upwards, after a beetle she perched in the vase’s bouquet.  But as the snake thawed, he began to droop, and she had to pop him back in the freezer.

“This deer over here-”  We walked to a collection of large photographs, each of a different fawn, positioned with milk glass, berries, vegetables.  “I had to put him back in the freezer three or four times.”  She uses a stand-up freezer with the shelves taken out.  “It’s big enough that you, for example, could just walk into it…”

“And this is twine, here?  Wrapped around his… what is this called…”

“His foreleg!  Well- so my studio is a sun porch.  It’s glassed in, so I get this wonderful natural light.  All my images use natural light.  But it’s small, just 5 or 6 feet.  I’d figured out exactly how I wanted him, but the way his leg was, I couldn’t get him all in frame.  I couldn’t back up far enough, you know.  So I took a hair dryer- this is gross, maybe you don’t want to put it in print- and I just bent over him and kind of… moved his leg…”  She moved her hands, making the gestures women use to explain how they did their hair.

The fawn weighed, oh, about 45 pounds.  She found it while running a trail near her house and carried it home in a laundry basket.  “It’s remarkably easy to sneak a dead baby deer past the neighbor’s children.  But it’s possible they suspect… Ah!  Perhaps also of note: all the flowers and vegetables you see here are grown in my own garden.”

The flowers and vegetables were beautiful.  Moving to a different photograph, Witham pointed out the correspondence between the shadowy pattern of the milk glass with the pattypan squash positioned beside it.  The squash had roundish yellow markings; the fawn, curling upwards into the air, balanced perfectly atop the glass, also possessed roundish markings.  Which were, of course, white.

“And this series I call ‘The Suburban Ossuary’- the place where bones are kept.”  Now we were catty corner to the fawns, looking at an evocative series of jaws, skulls, a pelvis.  One set of jaws, slightly grungier than the other, formerly belonged to a dog; the whiter pair, a fox.

“These jaws actually belonged to that guy over there,” she said, pointing to a fox (who was tailless) in a photograph across the room.  His paw was propped in what looked like a light fixture.

“I bury the animals after I finish photographing them.  Sometimes they get dug back up- by dogs and other things; we live near the woods- and I find them again.  And so the same animals reappear in my images, but in different forms.”

In the center of the room was a squirrel she called Buster, perched atop a totem made of a candy dish, goblet and watering can.  On the pedestal beside him was a tiny, finger-length mole inside an egg cup.  One of his paws was raised ever so slightly, almost playfully- on top of a doily and a bit of sunny embroidery.

“A whimsical grotesque,” Witham called it.  As I admired the embroidery: “I find all this great stuff at yard sales, thrift stores,” she said.  “When I’m done, I’m going to have the most amazing garage sale ever.”

But working hand in hand with death this way- had it changed her relationship with her own body?

“Actually, I’m inspired by this idea that everything goes away, is temporary- you know Vanitas paintings?”  I did not.  She explained to me the Dutch still life paintings of flowers, dead rabbits, bones.  “Right now I’m working on a darker series, with kind of this Caravaggio theme…

“When I see these dead animals, it makes me sad.  There’s this conflict between people and nature- these photographs are, I guess, a kind of testament to the fact that they lived.  That they lived, and they were beautiful.”

The dead things were beautiful still in her photographs.  Photography is a strange art.  As I’ve said here before, it gives the feeling of possessing a moment, an object: a life.  Maybe in the same way an obituary does.  In the captured time of a photograph, everything seems clear, obvious.  Preserved?  Maybe so.

 “Also I play a bit on this domestic aesthetic, that Martha Stewart idea of domestic perfection.  When I was in New Jersey,  every day I saw so many dead deer in the road.  I’d say to my students, ‘there’s so many dead deer!’ They’d just shrug and be like, “Oh, yeah.  It’s always like that.” But to see between five and ten new ones in the road every day- and there are these trucks always coming by to pick up the bodies, to dump them in the landfill… I started photographing them. But it was too literal, maybe.  Eventually I brought home a squirrel.  And from there it just… went.”

She is especially interested in squirrels.  There is a magnetized squirrel in a picture frame (code name Bubba), and pictures of many: one is curled up like furry filling in a pie dish; another is keeled over, stiff-legged in a dish, his tail drooping, Davy Crockett style, over one edge.

 (Side note: Davy Crockett was purchased by an art lover who hates squirrels. “Got to have it,” he said.)

We looked at a nuthatch in a soap dish- this particular nuthatch had dispatched itself against her mother’s window; another had a dried nasturtium in its beak.  The nasturtium arced over his small, gritty body- like a banner; his own epitaph, almost-  or else a killer fungi.

I found myself studying her photographs long after she left.  I kept coming back to Witham’s statement that many of the same animals reappear throughout her work, but in different forms– here is the creature entire: and here now are its bones-

Maybe this is the way of all things.  We visit upon an idea, it goes subterranean for a time, and then surfaces again.  Dreams evolve over a lifetime; lessons deepen; old loves become new.  For Kimberly Witham, the resurfacing of ideas is tangible.

Wunderkammer is here until March 8th, 2014.  Come and see.

Snake

Snake

Freshly installed: Kimberly Witham’s little man, “Buster”

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Pauline West is a novelist and member of Redux Studios.  She is at work on a Southern Gothic about a girl who opens a door between the lands of the living and the dead.

Father’s Day Focus: Sculptor Tony Smith

TOny SMith

Die Sculpture, by Tony Smith

Did you know that American Sculptor, Tony Smith, was not only pioneer in the development of Minimalistic Sculpture in the modern art world, but he helped shaped the artistic careers of his daughters, Kiki Smith (sculptor, printmaker) and Seton Smith (photography)?  

Starting in his 50s, Tony Smith began to create minimalistic pieces inspired by the abstract artwork of his friends: Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Clifford Still. Living most of his life in New Jersey, his home was his studio. It was here, Tony’s children were encouraged to actively participate in his creative process as he allowed both girls to help him create cardboard/toothpick models for his geometric sculptures.  

 “My father just raised us to be his assistants,” jokes Kiki. “We were like educational experiments.” -excerpt from Artnet

This formalist study laid the foundation for both girls to assert their own ideas in the visual arts. Kiki Smith (b. 1954) is known for her provocative work, a combination of body/spiritual explorations and story-telling through sculptures, printmaking, drawing. Seton Smith (b.1955) found her way through photography, exploring themes of memory and desire.

Blue Girl, 1998 by Kiki Smith

Blue Girl, 1998 by Kiki Smith

Seton Smith, 1991

Seton Smith, 1991

So, perhaps there is truth in the old saying, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree. For Kiki Smith and Seton Smith continue to impact the contemporary art world with their own artistic visions, initiated and nurtured by their father, Tony Smith.  

Cheers to all the great dads out there sharing their passions for life with their children. Happy Father’s Day!

Redux Studio Artist: Jennifer Ervin @ Jericho Advisors

Ervin-TheRiver

With all the warm summer weather Charleston has been graced with lately, it seems amicable timing to revisit and savor summer memories with Redux Studio Artist,  Jen Ervin‘s solo photography exhibition, This Side of Summer, at Jericho Advisors,  207A St. Philip Street. Ervin’s work is on view  now by appointment through February, 20, 2013.

Ervin’s series explores the ethereal world of childhood and was born from time spent with her children during the long, humid summer days at their family cabin in the woods and at their home in the low country. Ervin states,

While some families play board games together, we tend to pass the time by working collaboratively on photography projects.

Ervin shot these hauntingly beautiful photographs with her 1963 Polaroid Land 100 Camera and then enlarged them the digital darkroom. The final images are mysterious and poetic  and all awaken a curiosity for the stories behind them.

Ervin-Alligator

Ervin-Arch

Redux Fall 2012 Class Schedule

Enrollment is now open for Redux’s Fall semester with beginning to advanced courses in silver arts, drawing, photography, mixed media and more. All are affordable, timed to fit the schedules of working people and are taught by professional artists.  And don’t forget: as a member, you’ll receive 20% OFF these classes and all Redux classes and workshops! To learn more, click hereBelow are class dates & times. 

Silver Arts

Beginners Jewelry  October 9, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, October 16 & 23, 6:30pm – 9:30pm

Printmaking

Private Lessons in Letter Press (couples welcome!)  9 hrs per month structured around your schedule

Block Printing Fabric Workshop  October 2, 6pm – 9pm

Screen Printing T-Shirt Class  October 3, 10, 17, 24, 6pm – 9pm 

Relief Printing Class  October 29, November 5, 12, 19, 6pm – 9pm

Screen Printing Workshop  November 27, 6pm – 10pm

Painting 

Painting with Acrylics  October 1, 8, 15, 22, 7pm – 9pm

Introduction to Oil Painting  October 3, 10, 17, 24, 6pm – 8pm

Mixed Media Painting  November 5, 12, 19, 26, 7pm – 9pm

Landscaping with Oil Pastels  November 7, 14, 21, 28, 6pm – 8pm

Drawing

Sunday Figure Drawing (drop in)  Every Sunday, 5pm -7pm 

Introduction to Drawing  September 4, 11, 18, 25, 6pm – 8pm

Colored Pencil Drawing  September 8, 15, 22, 29, 3pm – 5pm

Intro to Drawing the Figure  October 30, November 6, 13, 20, 6:30pm – 9:30pm 

Classical Figure Drawing Workshops  September 10, 17, 6:30pm – 9pm

Daytime Intuitive Figure Drawing  October 4, 11, 18, 25, November  1, 8, 11am – 2pm

Mixed Media

Picture Framing Class  September 6, 13, 20, 27, 6pm – 9pm 

Collage/Photomontage Workshop  October 6, 10am – 3pm

Matting Techniques One Night Workshop  October 29, 6pm – 9pm

Illustrating Children’s Books  November 1, 8, 15, 6pm – 9pm

Art Theory

A History of African American Printmaking: 1724 to 2000  November 29, 6pm – 8pm 

Music Theory

Intro to Music Theory and Ear Training Class  September 5, 12, 19, 26, 6pm – 7:30pm

Photography/Film

Private Lessons in Black & White Photography  9 hrs/month structured around your schedule

Digital-Video Filmmaking  October 4, 11, 18, 25, 6pm – 9pm

Splash Into Summer

Summer is officially here! Last night at approximately 7:09 pm  (EDT), Summer Solistice began in the Northern Hemisphere, bringing with it longer, sunny days. Interestingly enough, the timing of the Summer Solistice depends on when the Sun reaches it’s farthest point north of the equator which makes the date vary anywhere between June 20-22.

To celebrate this favorite of seasons, let’s visually dive into the David Hockney’s pool series to cool off. 

Hockney, A Bigger Splash, 1967. Acrylic on Canvas, Tate Gallery.

David Hockney (b. July 9, 1937) is a British contemporary artist well versed in painting, printmaking and photography. Inspired by his time spent in California, swimming pools are a favorite theme. Whether Hockney’s pool images are photographs or paintings, they often border on abstraction. Viewers are easily absorbed into the vibrant colors of his summer palette and through them, can feel the natural sensations of heat and calm. In 1967, Hockney won the John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool for his painting, Peter Getting Out Of Nick’s Pool.

David Hockney, John St. Clair Swimming (from Twenty Photographic Pictures), 1972. Sonnabend Collection, New York © David Hockney; photo credit Richard Schmidt

Hockney, Sun on the Pool, Composite Polaroid, 24 3/4 x 36 1/4″

In Hockney’s photomontage work, called “The Joiners”, he took Polaroids of one subject and arranged them into a grid layout.

 

Planned Parenthood Health Center presents RE:NUDE III Art Show and Sale at Redux Contemporary Art Center

Re/Nude will have its 3rd Annual Art Show and Sale at Redux Contemporary Art Center, located at 136 St. Philip St., on March 21-24, 2012. The Premiere Night Show and Sale will be on March 21, from 6-10:30pm. Admission to the Premiere Night Show is $15 in advance or $20 at the door. The Local Honeys will provide stellar entertainment, and beer, wine, and bubbly will be served. The Public Show and Sale will take place March 22-24, from 10am-5:30pm. There is a suggested $10 donation upon entry.

Re/Nude is a benefit for the local Planned Parenthood Health Center. The title of the show is Re-Nude: Celebrate the Body. Nude figurative works, created by local artists, will be for sale. For each piece sold, there will be a 50:50 split- half going to the artist and the other half benefiting Planned Parenthood. Not only will this event support Planned Parenthood, but it also supports the creative community in Charleston, providing local artists an opportunity to show and sell their work.