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Fractured: Mini Interviews | Marie Maher, Heidi Cost, Ruth Lauer Manenti


photo-eye Gallery Fractured: Mini Interviews Marie Maher, Heidi Cost, Ruth Lauer Manenti Welcome to week 6 of our mini-interview series! This time we talk to Marie Maher, Heidi Cost, and Ruth Lauer Manenti. In a world that is constantly becoming through rapid transformation, their photographs reflect this process by portraying moments of heightened subjectivity. They bring up the question, can we be objective observers and storytellers in a fractured world?

 

Opening night for Fractured

Welcome to week 6 of our mini-interview series! This time we talk to Marie Maher, Heidi Cost, and Ruth Lauer Manenti. In a world that is constantly becoming through rapid transformation, their photographs reflect this process by portraying moments of heightened subjectivity. They bring up the question, can we be objective observers and storytellers in a fractured world?

In Marie Maher’s alluring composite Highway 41, a female figure emerges abstractly from a silhouetted rural street. The character is frozen in a confused movement leaving the subject matter open to many interpretations. Marie’s photograph can be seen as a voyeuristic mystery, a strange and captivating rhythm on a solitary night.

Heidi Cost combines digital photography with alternative darkroom processes. In Escape Through the Window, she uses self-portraiture and double exposures as a way to portray and manage her feelings while looking after her ailing mother. Paradoxically, the window in this multi-faceted cyanotype offers no magical escape, but is directly confrontational. 

Ruth Lauer Manenti’s delicate print powerfully conveys a story in one single image.  The cut braids offer a beginning, a middle, and an end in the story of a close friend. The work pushes the boundaries of storytelling and examines the relationship between the photographer and her subject matter.

Enjoy the interviews!

 

 MARIE MAHER | NIGHT MOVES


Marie Maher, Highway 41, 2017, archival pigment print with mixed media on board, edition of 10, 12 x 18 inches image, unframed, $400

What inspired this image?
I am a nocturnal person by nature and enjoy photo shoots at night. Everything seems more dramatic in the dark. During one of my nighttime outings, I decided to take some shots of desolate streets from inside my car. These images became the basis for my latest series, which I call “Night Moves.” It is a collection of stories around various encounters that occur at night. I wanted the scenes to be mysterious, perhaps a bit creepy, and open to interpretation as to what exactly is happening. The subjects are shadowy, indistinct characters, and there is a sense of motion that captures an instant in time, which adds to the drama. There may be a certain voyeuristic element to these images as well, but that is up to the viewer’s imagination.

The Highway 41 piece shows a blurry image of a female figure on the side of a deserted rural street. The subject is turned away from the vehicle and illuminated in the headlights. What exactly is happening is not clear. Is this about a fractured relationship? Is the woman in danger? If so, will the driver stop for assistance, or is the driver the danger? I like this piece a lot because of the suspense it creates.

Can you share an interesting story about your subject matter or the making of your image?
The image was created in two parts. I first photographed the road, which is less than a mile from my house. I later photographed the model and then composited her into the background. I generally use compositing on my surrealistic work, but I find that it can also be a powerful tool for achieving the effect I want on more “realistic” images as well, like this one.

My own interpretation of the story behind the image shifted as I created it. We may conclude something about a person only seen as a blur in low light, but how accurate can that be? I was reminded that initial impressions and assumptions about others may not be accurate when we aren’t directly involved.

Bio:
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love art. I started painting in oils at the age of 12 and studied art and photography at SUNY, Buffalo and the University of New Mexico during my college years. Though I ended up with degrees in Architecture and Pharmacy to make a living, I never lost my passion for artistic expression, and decided to completely immerse myself in photography after a serious illness rearranged my priorities in 2007. 

Since 2009, I have entered over 60 juried contests and received over 30 awards from judges, peers, and the public alike. My work has been included in solo and group exhibitions, notably the Jadite Gallery in New York City. I have received numerous awards, including finalist in both the fine art & the alternative processes categories in the Julia Margaret Cameron Award. Five images from The Misled series have been exhibited at the 4th Biennial of Fine Art and Documentary Photography in Berlin, Germany.


 

HEIDI COST | ESCAPE THROUGH THE WINDOW

 

Heidi Cost, Escape Through the Window, 2019, toned cyanotype, 6 x 6 inches, edition of 5, framed, $560

What is your process like?
My artistic background is in analog photography. When digital photography became popular, I felt as though I had lost the connection with the physicality of creating images. This loss of direction resulted in an interest in alternative processes that combine digital negatives and actual darkroom printing. Cyanotypes do not require toxic chemicals and are easily manipulated by bleaching and toning the print to achieve tonalities other than the classic Prussian Blue of a traditional cyanotype. This image reminds me of a mummy with layers of covering in a kind of bandage. It made sense to print it as a cyanotype with its clinical blue tonalities and harsh lighting.

What inspired this image?
I was homebound for a period of time, taking care of my elderly mother who was suffering from dementia. Trying to carve out the few moments I could in each day, I made a series of self-portraits expressing the emotions I was experiencing while being a dutiful daughter.

Much is left to chance when working with double exposures and this image, a combination of Venetian blinds and self-portrait, evokes a sense of the mechanical self, going through the motions and repressing the layers of grief. I really had no idea how the two exposures would work with each other, so the majority of the creative process was about surrendering any control of the final image.

Bio/Artist Statement:
I find distinct beauty in organic shapes and forms and am intrigued with the way my simple surroundings fall into place without any effort or forced arrangement. This noticing is part of the process: a pile of leaves blown into a corner of the back porch, a dead bird among winter vegetables, window blinds casting shadows on the bedroom wall.

The imagery can be as simple as a discarded knitting project or a shadow falling across an adobe wall in the late afternoon –all invite individual interpretation and hold a story. I invite you to look at my photographs and dwell in the quiet potential of the images.
I work with traditional alternative processes such as Cyanotype, Kallitype, Van Dyke, and Platinum Palladium. The complex alchemy of these photographic processes leave much to chance, rendering each image unique.

I often present my final images in a hand-created book or portfolio form, in order to add to the handmade quality of the photographs.

Exhibitions:
Photo-eye Gallery Juried Show | Fractured | Santa Fe, NM | 2020
Nude Nite – An Annual Art Happening and Juried Show | Tampa, FL | 2020
New Mexico Women in the Arts Juried Show | Center for Contemporary Arts | Santa Fe, NM | 2012


RUTH LAUER MANENTI | TWO BRAIDS

 

Ruth Lauer Manenti, Two Braids, 2018, archival pigment print, 6 x 8 image, edition of 10, framed, $1000

What inspired this image?
The inspiration for this picture came from my love for Céline (Initially she was my student but we then became friends). She decided to cut and give her hair to Locks of Love and I asked her if I could photograph her hair first. Being that I’m looked upon as the “artist” in our community, she accepted my request and did not find it strange. Months later, after Una was born, I gave her this and one other photo of her hair. They were in a box and I don’t think, as of yet she has opened that box. I don’t think she feels ready for this reminder.

Céline's mother died of cancer in the spring of 2018, three months after Céline found out she was pregnant with her first child. It had been a long road leading up to that as Céline was anorexic and had to heal from that before she could have any children. Her body was too fragile to carry excess weight. We all kept an eye on her at that time, looking for any signs of a relapse, especially in her face, but it seemed that her marriage to David, the move to house with a backyard and potential for gardening, and the prospects of family, improved her condition, little by little, over the course of several years. So, there she was, happy, healthy and pregnant, while receiving the news of a terminal diagnose from her mother’s doctor.

Her mother Audrey was only 52 and not at all ready or prepared to die. In fact, up until the very end she was angry and unaccepting. The ambiguity and impermanence of life, she had not reflected upon. Whatever she wanted, more or less, she had had and now she wanted to live longer and to be a grandmother. Céline tried to help her mother find peace or acceptance, but her efforts were not enough to matter. The more effort Céline made, the more the circles under her eyes darkened. That’s when she started to feel ambivalent about the baby she was carrying, or not so much about the child, but about the happiness she felt, none the less, of this new chapter of her life. . .husband, baby, house etc.

Bio:
I live in a cabin in the woods in the Catskill Mountains of New York. My background is in painting and drawing, but fifteen years ago I inherited a K.B. Canham large format camera from someone I greatly admire. I taught myself how to use the camera and gradually accomplished what I was striving for in drawing and painting, through photography. I gather much of my inspiration from looking at drawings and paintings continuously over decades. My mother was also an artist. She had a wealth of talent and worked steadily throughout her life, yet her number one role was to take care of her family. Sadly, she left behind a legacy of unwanted, unpublished, unknown work. I realize, now that she has passed away, that part of my determination as an artist is to honor my mother and to create a continuum. Since breaking my neck in a car crash at the age of twenty, I have developed a strong spiritual life and practice for which I have made annual trips to India for the last thirty-five years to study yoga, meditation and Sanskrit and to adapt a way of life simpler and more ritualistic than I had known before.

I received a BFA from SVA in NYC and an MFA in drawing, printmaking and painting from the Yale School of Art in 1994, where I later taught. I also taught at Dartmouth College. I have exhibited at the Bill Maynes Art Gallery, the Lower East Side Printshop, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Paula Cooper Gallery, The Griffin Museum of Photography, John Davis Gallery, and Le Salon Vert in Switzerland. I received a 2016 New York Foundation for the Arts grant in photography. I was an International Portfolio Winner in the Soho Photo Gallery competition in 2019.


Stay tuned for next's week post, where we'll talk to Peter Essick, Jennifer Steensma Hoag, David Paul Bayles.

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