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LIGHT + METAL: Anne Arden McDonald – Experiments in Silver

photo-eye Gallery LIGHT + METAL:
Anne Arden McDonald – Experiments in Silver
photo-eye Gallery speaks to Photographer's Showcase artist Anne Arden McDonald about moving away from traditional representational photography, and why she makes the unique works included in LIGHT + METAL.

Anne Arden McDonald's prints installed as a part of LIGHT + METAL at photo-eye Gallery
LIGHT + METAL is a substantial exhibition packed with 60 unique artworks produced in an eclectic array of styles including Anne Arden McDonald's energetic and somewhat enigmatic photograms, lumen prints, and chemigrams.  photo-eye Gallery has enjoyed a long relationship with McDonald, previously representing her self-portraits and Diana camera work on the Photographer's Showcase. Her cameraless work originally came to our attention about 10 years ago and she was among the first artists included in LIGHT + METAL as we began to curate the exhibition. Interested in transforming her practice after printing performative representational works for nearly 20 years, and feeling pressure from the shrinking pool of available traditional silver-based materials, Anne began to experiment in the darkroom. Continuing our conversations with LIGHT + METAL artists, we've reached out to Anne Arden McDonald in an attempt to shed light on her artistic intentions and material decisions.

Anne Arden McDonald, Molecule, 2017 Cameraless Gelatin-Silver Print, 24x20" Image, Unique, $2,400

photo-eye:     What inspired you to create the pieces that are included in LIGHT + METAL?

Anne Arden McDonald:     Photography is a very young and exciting medium, and there is a great deal of undiscovered terrain. In some ways, it stands at a precipice: digital photography is eroding the availability of some analog materials, as well as the study and use of silver gelatin papers. I am curious to see what is possible with photo paper, and it never fails to surprise me. It’s possible that we have only scratched the surface of what this medium can achieve.

Anne Arden McDonald, Wasted Flowers, 2016 Lumen Print, 20x16" Image, Unique, $1,600

pe:     Why did you choose the specific process you employed to make your work?

AAM:     Each of my pieces in the show is a slightly different process, but a few of them are re-imaginings of antique camera-less processes: Shattered is a chemigram, Molecule and Virus are photograms, in that you put an object on photo paper and shine light through it. I’m using these processes to make what appear to be objects which have volume, and sometimes a figure-ground relationship.

Each new process is a new world. You can’t enter this new world and quickly snatch what you want and leave, you have to learn the language of the place, tiptoe in quietly, sit down in a corner and watch. Don't impose your vision on what might happen, wait to see how it speaks and listen to what it needs,  what it does, and what it has to offer you.

Anne Arden McDonald, Shattered, 2017 Chemigram, 20x16" Image, Unique, $1,600

pe:     What type of images did you make prior to the artwork you are currently creating; what inspired the change in direction?

AAM:     Long ago, I made a series of self-portraits, but after 15-20 years of printing them I grew tired of the darkroom experience, so I made experiments. Eventually, this led to a whole body of work where the process informs the resulting image. I’m inspired by the lively dialogue that occurs between painters or sculptors and their chosen medium. I’m also using a scientific method, where you observe phenomena, formulate a hypothesis, test it with experiments, use careful measurements, note variables, observe results, and use this information to build an image.

For example, one morning I noticed that drips of coffee had evaporated from my enamel table and left a series of reticulation rings which resembled a topographical map. I taught myself to make evaporated ink paintings on glass and to used them as a negative to print through to make images.
My processes are an unorthodox collection of materials and techniques from the domestic and scientific realms, brought into the darkroom, often coaxing or scrubbing an image into the photographic paper.

Across all of my work, I am interested in the organic: how everything around us grows, dies, decomposes, and changes into something else.

Anne Arden McDonald is a Brooklyn based visual artist who grew up in Atlanta Georgia. From age 15 to 30 she made self-portraits by building installations in abandoned interiors and performing privately for her camera in these spaces, publishing a book of this work in 2004. She also has a large body of dreamy photographs shot with a Diana camera over several decades. More recently she has been using light and chemistry the way a painter or sculptor would build images on photographic paper.

McDonald’s work has been exhibited widely in the past 30 years, she has had 44 solo exhibitions in 10 countries (about 230 total shows in 14 countries) and has been published in over 215 places in 20 countries, including appearances in Aperture, European Photography, and Eyemazing magazines. Her work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Worchester Art Museum, the Houston MFA, the Denver Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Art and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

LIGHT + METAL is on view at photo-eye Gallery 
through September 15th, 2018. 

For additional information on Anne Arden McDonald's work, 
and to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Staff at 
505-988-5152 or