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of her process, the work shows the various way in which Nelson has been able to playfully experiment with and trouble outdated photographic processes to create abstract work.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.

Continue reading

The Detritus of Detroit: Both Maddening and Inspiring

The materials that Design 99 use in their artworks might scare you a little. The Detroit-based collaborative, made up of artists Mitch Cope and Gina Reichert, often source abandoned houses in their city for raw material. For their Creative Capital project, Garbage Totem 2, for instance, will include old tires, used mattresses and couches abandoned in their neighborhood to create sculptures and installations. Last year Mitch attended our Creative Capital retreat and explained his process and discoveries. We followed up to ask more about what Design 99 is working on currently. 

Alex Teplitzky: When we heard from Mitch at the Artist Retreat, you were working on cleaning up the former house of Larry, a massive hoarder. He had 4 generations of material in his house, not to mention excrement of different kinds. What was that process like, and what’s happened to the house since then?

Mitch Cope: It was a very dirty and surreal process because we were not just simply dumping the contents of the house, but carefully sifting through it in search of artistic-archeological treasures. We were looking for things that spoke about the people that lived in the house, specifically Larry who was a friend and neighbor and died in the house. There was a lot of family memorabilia, but there was an incredible amount of inanimate objects carefully stacked and stored everywhere as if they were magnetized to the house. This is really interesting to us as artists, because after all, artists create things that seem to come from nowhere, don’t always have a logical reason for existing and yet can be powerful just by allowing them to be highlighted and elevated through the context of art. The same can be said for a hoarder and their things, the difference is their things are never meant to be seen beyond their own makers.

Continue reading

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!

Putting Your Best Face Forward: Smartphone Photos for Your Artist Website

Sue SchaffnerOn Thursday, June 16th, 2016 at 7pm EST, artist Sue Schaffner presents her “Website, Blog & Email Essentials” webinar, an overview of best practices for your website, blog, and email marketing and communications. Below, Sue offers some tips on how to create a professional-level bio photo with your smartphone, a big step in creating a great first impression online.

Being an artist doesn’t mean taking your personality out of your work. People love to know about your process. How did you do that? Why did you do that? What’s it like to be you? Without answers to some of those basic questions, it’s difficult to become connected to your work. Continue reading

Creative Capital Edition: Connie Samaras, “Edge of Twilight”

Connie Samaras, "Edge of  Twilight (1)," 2011-14 . Creative Capital 2014 Edition (edition of 150). 10" x 12.5" digital print on 11" x 17" paper. Price: $500.

Connie Samaras, “Edge of Twilight (1),” 2011-14 . Creative Capital 2014 Edition (edition of 150). 10″ x 12.5″ digital print on 11″ x 17″ paper. Price: $500.

Every year, we partner with a Creative Capital Artist to create a special project or edition for our Benefit & Auction. This year, for our 15th Anniversary Benefit, which takes place in New York on October 21, we are thrilled to offer a stunning photo by Connie Samaras (2012 Visual Arts) to everyone who purchases a Premium Benefit Ticket ($500). The image is from Edge of Twilight, a series of photos and videos shot at an all woman, predominantly lesbian, RV retirement community located in the U.S. Southwestern desert. Samaras shot close-ups of the RV homes on film late at night under the park’s safety lights, capturing eerie, somewhat unearthly light and colors.

Samaras, who is based in Los Angeles, recently had a major survey of her work dealing with the future imaginaries of global capital, Tales of Tomorrow, at the Armory in Pasadena. The exhibition was accompanied by a beautiful catalogue funded by the Warhol foundation and available through DAP/artbook. I connected with Connie to learn more about her Creative Capital edition and the Edge of Twilight series.

Continue reading

LaToya Ruby Frazier Presents Intimate Portraits of Family and Community at the Brooklyn Museum

0012grandma-ruby-and-me  LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby and Me

LaToya Ruby Frazier (2012 Visual Arts) has been photographing her family and her hometown of Braddock, PA, since she was 16, bearing witness to Braddock’s decline from a booming steel mill town to a “distressed” municipality with widespread pollution and increasingly scarce jobs.

This Friday, LaToya’s first solo museum exhibition opens at the Brooklyn Museum. Through the 40 photographic works presented in The Haunted Capital, Frazier offers an intimate portrait of the effects of deindustrialization on the lives of individuals and communities.  Continue reading