Statement

 

Artist’s Statement


My work features photographic memories and architectural fabrications, chronicling

material culture and the experience of place. Weaving art historical themes and compositions into the contemporary visual world, I build digital montage images that derive from monumental altar pieces and architectural masterworks as well as the knick-knacks of current material culture.

The process begins with photographing raw material, primarily in the urban environment, where I find a great variety of objects and an endless palette of shape, texture and color

with which to work. I often shoot reflected images that catch gleams of light and layers of depth leaping from multifaceted forms, creating an interplay between positive and negative space, offering an illusion of penetrable and impenetrable space compressing the aesthetics of the past and present.

In my post camera work, through duplication and reorganization of subjects, architectural elements and objects, I am able to construct new forms as well as stretch the limitations of the camera’s format in regard to framing and composition. This process allows me to vary perspective, creating spaces with perspectives of their own where the visual environment bends to accommodate experience.

While photography is traditionally a narrative medium, I ask viewers to let go of the notion that a photograph is a picture of a particular thing, and to focus instead on the imagery that emerges from recomposed elements.


Commentary

by Sandy Isenstadt

(President Society of Architectural Historians, Director Center for Material Culture Studies, Director Graduate Studies Art History Department University of Delaware)


One of the most surprising discoveries in the history of science has been the sheer beauty of naturally occurring structures, from diatoms and DNA to space nebula and trans-galactic super strings.  With advanced imaging techniques penetrating micro- and macro-worlds alike, scientists find complex entities are governed by simple geometric laws, as if the universe had been composed along aesthetic principles.  By engaging some of the compositional principles that scientists have learned guide nature itself, artist Gwen Adler proposes new modes of seeing-like, and seeming-like, science for the everyday world.

Ordinary scenes such as chairs in a show window appear in her work like sudden insights into new scales of life.  Her images conjure a sense of super-vision in viewers; the scene they see is not, say, a Soho street, but a living crystal at the moment it first precipitates from the void, a single cell trying hard not be another organism's breakfast, or the first crackling lines of force that will stretch over the course of eons into a sun.

With camera and digital tools, Adler reveals the immeasurable volume of information that was available to all of us just walking along the street, but that we were too busy or too distracted or too numb to notice. Perhaps most surprising, she does so not by cramming her images with restless piles of bric-a-brac.  Rather, Adler shows the geometric patterns that organize diversity, that, in fact, underpin diversity and prevent matter's collapse into chaos.  Science does this, too, teaches us to see, much as Darwin explained in such elegant terms how it was that the earth was teeming with intricately interwoven complex creatures each of which was intricately entangled in its environment.

Even a short time among her photographs empowers viewers by refreshing their vision.  Since each image has what might be called a narrative compositional trail, that is, tantalizing hints pointing toward starting forms, viewers find themselves engaged in an effort at visual decomposition.  Then, leaving the gallery, entering again into the world of ordinary perception, a viewer is tempted to look once more at that familiar scene, some furniture behind glass, say, or a building's lights at night, and try to replicate the folds, cuts, and rotations they followed just before.  The result is a new way of seeing the everyday environment, an eagerness to see the otherwise unseen laws that structure not only our daily world but the micro- and macro-worlds that sandwich us.