Brittany Nelson Upends Tradition By Misusing Dangerous Photographic Processes

Nowadays, photography is perhaps the one artistic medium with which literally everyone has some experience. And that’s what makes Brittany Nelson’s work so important. Her Creative Capital project, Alternative Process, opens November 5 at David Klein Gallery. Typical of her process, the work shows the various way in which Nelson has been able to playfully experiment with and trouble outdated photographic processes to create abstract work. Unlike other mediums, photography, in particular, has a long history of perpetuating tradition. By experimenting with processes, Nelson challenges these traditions, which, as she explains, is a white male dominated art form. We caught up with Brittany to find out more about her work.

Alex Teplitzky: Can you talk about the show at David Klein Gallery: what are the themes that tie the work together?

Brittany Nelson: My Creative Capital project has really been a series of solo exhibitions this year leading up to “Alternative Process.” It was perhaps an unusual situation because I have been showing the work as I develop it. Starting with “The Year I Make Contact” at Morgan Lehman in NYC, “Controller” at Patron in Chicago, and landing in Detroit in November at David Klein Gallery; all new work was created for every exhibition, and each show centered around its own sub-theme. “The Year I Make Contact” centered around themes of evolution. “Controller” focused on the idea of mirroring and movement with ties back to very early astronomical photography, and “Alternative Process” is being created around ideas of time (as a physical quantity).

All of these exhibitions and the body of work at large center around major themes of communication/transmissions, future artifacts, abstraction as the philosophical ideal, and of course the history of photography. Alternative Process features a collection of tintypes on brushed silver aluminum that contain various recreations and reinterpretations of science graphics. I have been flipping through a large quantity of books on astronomy and theoretical physics, specifically looking at the graphs and charts that have been created as an attempt to communicate very complex sets of knowledge as simply as possible. I have been very interested in these modes of communication by both how succinct they are, but in the ways in which they fail to cause a comprehensive understanding. This segues into the thoughts behind designing the Golden Record that went out on the Voyager spacecraft, and how you design something for a brain and logic system you can’t comprehend. I think of the tintypes this way: as an alien or future artifact. In this instance, though, the aliens I’m trying to communicate with are the gallery patrons.

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Who Knew Making Art Could Be So Dangerous?

Brittany Nelson uses the toxic chemicals of old school photography techniques like tintype and Mordancage to create highly detailed abstract images. Watch our profile video to learn more about her process, and look for her work at Volta New York with Morgan Lehman Gallery through March 6!

Scenes from “The Year I Make Contact” Gallery Tour

To celebrate Creative Capital grantee Brittany Nelson’s solo show, The Year I Make Contact, at the Morgan Lehman gallery, CC artists, friends and staff gathered on February 10 for a special tour and Q&A with Nelson herself. Brittany gave us a peek into her photographic process, which is basically all of your high school science fair fantasies come true (also see: this Wired piece for a deep-dive into Nelson’s experimental methods). Events like this help grow our goal of supporting projects through each new phase of their development, and introducing new audiences to the work.

The Year I Make Contact is up through February 20 at Morgan Lehman. Hustle to see it if you haven’t already!

Binge Watch Presentation Videos from Our 2015 Retreat

Presentators at the Creative Capital 2015 Retreat

This past summer we took 86 artists up to Troy, NY, for a four-day retreat at EMPAC on the RPI campus. Throughout the weekend, they gave presentations to some of the country’s top curators and arts organizers about the projects they are developing with the help of Creative Capital.

We’ve uploaded the presentations to our YouTube page. If you have some down time during the holidays, it’s a perfect moment to binge watch these amazing videos! 

Click here to view our playlist on YouTube, and read on below for some featured videos.

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