When I was a young child in the fifties, I had an acquaintance by the name of Jim. Jim had fought bravely in our country’s wars. He was a kind young man, with an easy laugh and big brown eyes. Jim sometimes felt lonely, and he looked forward to our talks as much as I did. The one other important thing to know about Jim was this; Jim was dead. In retrospect, in the 1950’s, having an imaginary friend who was a dead World War II veteran was not the norm. But for a shy child, my imagination and creation of stories filled a need that I had to make sense of the world. I have always felt that there is a dimension of feeling and spirit and energy that transcends generations, and I have always been moved by stories and images. Somehow I was born in northern climes with a southerner’s narrative soul. In looking through hundreds of vintage images in antique stores, garage sales, etc., I find myself imagining the lives of those I see. These images become part of a constructed reality that includes other vintage images as well as images I have taken contemporarily to illustrate the story. These images are 12"x12"archival inkjet prints. There is an edition of smaller images that are each 1 of 1, printed on 23k gold leaf.
Unruly Vegetables Redux
Unruly Vegetables Redux
A long while ago, I did a series called Unruly Vegetables. I was new to digital tools and the pieces back then were dark and nightmarish images of vegetables concerned with the issue of control and containment. Recently I wondered what would happen if I undertook this project again, retaining only the name and basic concerns about control, and seeing where my aesthetic, my skills and my vision now landed. I set out as a challenge to myself to create still lifes utilizing natural light and light modifiers in order to allow that light to give form to the stuff of our daily lives. After that, I would just see what happened.
As I began to photograph, I utilized various twines, strings and tapes to explore the "containment of the unruly". I paid attention to my meandering mind, and I realized that I was creating personal and interpersonal dramas with “my subjects”. Thoughts on relationships, sacrifice, abandonment, courage and the like soon began to inform my setups for each frame, metaphorically reflecting my own thoughts on the choices, trials and challenges of human existence and relationship. This, it struck me was sort of like the moralistic still lifes of the 17th century except with no absolutes, moral judgement or threat of eternal damnation involved, and a desire to have the viewer construct their own singular narration. In allowing my own unrestrained stream of consciousness to exist within a formalistic, structured format which bows to historical styles of painting and photography, I permit both my creative intuition and my desire for craftsmanship to merge in creating an image that offers an unfamiliar way of regarding the familiar.
To be witnessed and to witness others has been a powerful dynamic in my life as an artist and as a human being, presenting an opportunity to be seen, to see myself and to see others, at times in new or changing ways. I set out to create a series of portraits that allows the sitter to be seen as they engage with me in an interactive process that might reveal an aspect of self that is less posed or guarded, an emotional experience not often thought of, or a memory resurfaced.
Following the session, and my printing of an image, that image is given to each participant, with a request that they live with it for awhile and reflect upon it, writing down what they see when looking at themselves. Their words are then added to their image. Each person photographed to this point has shown great courage in allowing themselves to be seen, and the experience has became a journey of unexpected moments for both myself and my photographic subjects. In combining the sitter’s words, along with their image, the process of witnessing continues as others view and perhaps find common experience in the portraits.
As poet Carolyn Forché writes in an article on the poetry of witness, from Poetry Magazine in 2011, “Language incises the page, wounding it with testimonial presence, and the reader is marked by encounter with that presence. Witness begets witness.”
At a very young age, I decided that being an artist was a worthy goal in life. And with a small detour during my eighth year when I briefly flirted with the notion of being a botanist (my failed experiment in grafting a lemon tree branch to a pomegranate tree was discouraging), an artist is what I always wanted to be. I found photography as a teenager and fell in love with the process, the darkroom and the magic of creating images. I believe the role of the artist is to illuminate, to look deeply and to hopefully create change. I am drawn to the mysteries of life, and those things that happen in the pause between moments.
Most of my work currently is done digitally, although I do use a film camera now and again. I am also very interested in other more hands on methods such as polymer photogravure, etc. and have experimented with printing on gold leaf as well.
Patricia Sandler received a B.A. in photography from UCLA in the 1970’s, where she had the opportunity to work extensively with Robert Heinecken. As a photographer, she believes passionately in the notion of art as catalyst to stimulate the heart, the mind and the memory. Her love of and belief in the power of words has also played a significant part in many of her projects. Patricia has exhibited her photography in many group exhibitions throughout the United States, and has pieces in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Center for Photography at Woodstock permanent print collection, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art/College Art Gallery at S.U.N.Y., New Paltz, New York.
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