My body of work “Under Glass” explores an imagined biology fueled by my fascination with science and the unseen, microscopic world. As I learn more about biology, I’ve come to realize that drama and conflict play out among organisms at the microscopic level even as they do among members of human society. Whether it’s tiny predators in a plankton bloom, bacteria and fungi vying for supremacy in the soil around us, or the complexities of human reproduction, we’re surrounded by these unseen stories. These fictional images emerge, dream-like and uncanny, from my imagination inspired by these actual biological entities and their struggles.
“Under Glass” refers to both the process of examining tiny biological specimens as well as the process I use to create these images. I create my fictitious microscopic worlds and scientific images by painstakingly arranging various botanical objects, flowers, leaves, seeds, vegetables, whole or in cross-section, on photographic paper and exposing them to direct sunlight. I combine techniques of lumen printing and chemigrams with digital enhancement and inkjet printing to create the final works. Just as in science, my process requires experimentation and often produces unexpected results. Zooming in on a high resolution scan reveals astonishing detail and exploring a single impression can yield multiple new compositions. This uncertainty is part of the adventure and makes this artistic practice a journey of discovery as well as creation.
Childhood experience, popular culture, and art and photographic history influence this work as well. I have vivid memories of seeing the movie “The Fantastic Voyage” as a child. When I was a child I was given a toy microscope kit. Following the instructions, I pressed various substances between thin glass slides and discovered entire new visual worlds in the commonplace things around me. The work also builds on techniques and influences from the early days of photography: from the photogenic drawings of William Henry Fox Talbot, to the cyanotype impressions of Anna Atkins, to the photograms of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy. In college, I was introduced to the art of the surrealists. Some of my favorites, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and Joan Miro influence the visual style of this work.