ART AND CULTURE
FEBRUARY 28, 2014 6:00 AM
by Samantha Thompson Hatem
photographs by Tim Lytvinenko
Diana Bloomfield doesn’t like working in a darkroom.
For most photographers who started taking photos in the early 1980s, this might have been a career-ending problem. But for Bloomfield, a Reidsville native, that realization turned out to be career-defining.
In Bloomfield’s garage-turned-studio behind her Saint Mary’s Street home, there’s no fancy digital camera, no collection of impressive long lenses, no spacious high-tech darkroom. Instead, the majority of Bloomfield’s work comes from the simplest type of photography equipment – a pinhole camera, most often one she has made herself.
With this low-tech device – a light-proof box with film or photographic paper and a tiny pinhole instead of a lens – Bloomfield, 61, has made a name for herself. She’s racked up awards and fellowships, showed her work around the globe, and been published in photography magazines and books.
But taking the pictures is just small part of her remarkable art. What really sets Bloomfield’s photos apart is the time-consuming and often tedious effort she puts into printing them, using old-world or alternative processes including cyanotype over platinum palladium; silver hand-tinted infrared; tri-color gum bichromate; and platinum palladium.
These techniques give her photos an ethereal quality. Some look like they could have been printed 100 years ago. The result is unforgettable images, often so worked over that they don’t even resemble photographs.
“Her work has a very organic feel to it, very earthy and dreamlike,” says Melanie Craven, one the co-owners of Tilt Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz., which represents Bloomfield and other photographers who specialize in historical techniques and alternative processes. “She has a very distinctive style. A lot of people can relate to her subject matter and how she presents it. She’s one of our top artists.”
Bloomfield’s success comes from her willingness to shun traditional rules of photography and have a little fun exploring. “I’ve always been more an intuitive type of photographer and printer,” she said. “I tend to experiment a lot and find that working intuitively, rather than following specific guidelines and rules, works well for me. Lots of ‘happy accidents’ happen when working that way, which, again, is kind of like life.”
The effort and care she takes with her photos can almost classify her as a printmaker, says Adam Cave, who sells Bloomfield’s work at his downtown Raleigh gallery, Adam Cave Fine Art. “Her work is not something that just anyone can shoot with a digital camera,” he said. “She has a very distinctive eye. Her photos don’t feel like photographs.”
Bloomfield’s love of photography happened by chance. In 1980, she was leaving an administrative job at Princeton University, and at her going-away party, her then-boss gave her a 35-millimeter camera. She admits she was a little surprised and stumped by the gesture – and the camera – but she resolved to figure out how to use it, and enrolled in a photography class.
Bloomfield quickly discovered that she not only liked photography, but she also had an eye for it. So she took another class, this time in large-format photography, a class that required some prerequisites that she didn’t have, since large-format cameras don’t have built-in light meters and sometimes require putting a hood over your head to get the right image.
“The teachers just said, ‘Here’s the camera, here’s the film.’ I struggled through, it but I figured it out,” Bloomfield said. Figuring it out, she admits, meant walking around Trenton, N.J., photographing people while simultaneously teaching herself about light, exposure and composition.
It was worth the struggle. She ended up winning a photography fellowship from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts based on the documentary photos of people who worked in Trenton.
“From the get-go, it all came so naturally to me,” she said. “It was easy to be around it people, and it was fun.”
That then-boss who gave her the camera – Peter Bloomfield – six years later became her husband. She asked him years afterward why he’d given her the camera. “He said, ‘Because you always said you wanted to take pictures,’ but I don’t ever remember saying that,” she said.
After the couple married, they moved to North Carolina, when Peter Bloomfield took at job at the statistics department at N.C. State University. Diana Bloomfield, however, felt a little lost after the move. She missed her close-knit photography community from New Jersey. She decided to go back to school, this time taking English classes at State, and eventually earning a master’s degree in creative writing and literature, another craft that she said came easily.
In 1992, the family, which now included a daughter, Annalee, moved to New York City for a sabbatical. And it was here that Diana Bloomfield picked up her camera again using a twin-lens reflex camera to create two-inch square negatives of the vivid scenes of the city, from Central Park bridges to Coney Island amusement rides. Back in North Carolina, she kept at it, continuing to take classes and exploring different ways to manipulate photos to create dream-like images, which is how she says she sees the world.
“I wanted to photograph in more of a dreamy way rather than being so literal,” she said.
The N.C. State Fair with its rides, carnies and many colorful lights was an ideal place to chase that dreamy imagine, she said. She also began experimenting with infrared film and started hand-tinting her photos.
About the same time, digital cameras started taking over. She was teaching a photography class at the N.C. State Crafts Center, and more students were coming in with complicated digital cameras, and she was dedicating more time showing students which buttons to push rather than the art of photography. “I thought, ‘I’m not having fun, and I know they can’t be,’ ” she said.
Then she had the idea to bring into class the simple pinhole camera to help them understand the mechanics of taking a photo. “Looking into a pinhole is a great way to teach people how it works,” she said. With a pinhole camera, light passes through the pinhole and projects the image upside down on film on the other side of the box.
Bloomfield ended up getting hooked on the camera, which gave her unique perspectives, in large part because of the long exposures pinhole cameras require. “With the long exposure, you get wonderful scenes of people,” she said. “It plays with time and space.”
Plus, it gave her more of that dreamlike quality she was chasing. “It seemed to do what I wanted to do with my images,” she said.
Her journey with pinhole cameras took her in new directions with her work. She discovered platinum printing and other 19th-century printing processes. She found they kept her out of the darkroom, which she already knew she didn’t like.
Today, Bloomfield continues to explore these processes, which begin with a large digital negative or in some cases, the original. Then she mixes an emulsion and brushes it on watercolor paper. Next, she develops the image. Then she layers on another negative, painstakingly re-registering it so it’s lined up and repeats the process. “You keep doing it until you get this full, rich image,” she said.
Since the processes she works with are exposed with UV light, such as the sun or a UV light box, “no traditional darkroom is necessary,” she said.
Her muse over the years has been her daughter, who is now grown and living in New York City. Through Bloomfield’s lens, you can see Annalee at the beach, on a swing at Crabtree Creek, near Thomas Sayre’s rings at the N.C. Museum of Art, inside the listening vessels at N.C. State. Their mother-daughter connection is so strong through photography, Bloomfield says they go out to work and they never even have to speak. Annalee instinctively knows how to move to give her mother the shot she needs. The result is invaluable collection of gallery-quality photos of her daughter.
Some of her other noted pieces include photos of the marsh and beach at Bald Head Island, landscapes from a trip out west, North Carolina’s kudzu fields, the midway at the N.C. State Fair and Raleigh’s Rose Garden.
Her photos range in price from $250 to $2,100, depending on size, at Adam Cave Fine Art. You also can see her photos in collections at N.C. State’s Gregg Museum, Ravenscroft School, the City of Raleigh Museum, the Bald Head Island Club and the N.C. Department of Agriculture. One of her biggest collections of photos is at Credit Suisse, which bought 44 pieces eight years ago for its Research Triangle Park offices. She also has work in the Pinhole Resource Collection in New Mexico, one of the world’s largest collections of pinhole camera images, which was recently acquired by the New Mexico History Museum.
Bloomfield also teaches workshops from her studio, an enviable remodeled space tucked behind her home. From the front, it’s just another backyard garage in Hayes Barton. For years, it was filled to capacity with the family’s old treasures. But three years ago, she asked home builder and renovator Greg Paul to turn it into a workable space. The result is a rustic yet modern two-room studio with an exposed ceiling and a barn door separating the two rooms made from the garage’s old heart-pine floors.
In here, she’s able to labor over her photos without ever having to step into a darkroom.
“I love the whole creativity of this,” she said. “It’s such a great art form.”
AMERICAN ART COLLECTOR
BIRDS OF A FEATHER: Click here to view PDF of this article:
NORTH RALEIGH NEWS
1 November 2011
BIRDS AT CENTER OF CONTRASTING STYLES
By Chelsea Kellner
A pair of four-eyed beauties in Japanese robes float across blue sky on the backs of two white cranes in flight. It’s a stylized painting, surreal, like something seen in a dream.
On another wall, there’s a black-capped chickadee on a painted abstract perch, so lifelike it looks ready to chirp and fly away.
Two artists offer their vision of birds at this month’s First Friday event at Adam Cave Fine Art downtown. Raleigh-based Tisha Weddington paints symbolic canvases of birds and women designed to be interpreted by the viewer. Byron Gin’s birds are so detailed they look like photographs, set against playful splashes of abstract color.
“Byron is playing off of documentation,” Cave said. “Tisha is playing off of the mythological element birds bring. But they’re both always exploring in their paintings.”
In Weddington’s art, animals are often used to bring masculine energy to her paintings, Cave said, which often center around a female figure.
Her birds can also serve that purpose, but just as often they are light, flitting or perched gently on an outstretched hand.
“I love for people to come up with their own stories, to narrate my images as they wish,” Weddington said.
Weddington is inspired by Japanese prints, bullfighting posters, old circus prints. She doesn’t have her own stories for the paintings. She works intuitively, with layers of drawing and paint.
“We all bring baggage to everything we see,” Cave said. “When a painter works in a simpler, more stylized style as Tisha’s doing, we’re able to read more into it.”
Gin, who is based in Chicago, has degrees in both art and environmental science and says he gathers inspiration from day-to-day life – like the birds on his backyard feeder.
Viewers have a strong response to paintings that incorporate birds, Cave said. There’s precedent for that in art history. From Renaissance art to the peace movement, doves and other birds have strong symbolic meaning.
There’s also a spiritual element – the Bible features doves, ravens and other birds playing key roles in important events from the Great Flood to the blessing of Jesus. In Native American tradition, an eagle or other bird can serve as one’s spirit animal.
Plus there’s the frenetic energy associated with birds that brings a sense of movement to any painting, Cave said.
“It gives the viewer the sense that, if the artist has frozen the moment, it’s only for a fraction of a second, because birds don’t stand still,” Cave said. “That brings a sense of life to the canvas.”
16 March 2011
WINTER KUDZU, SPRING KNIVES: AT ADAM CAVE AND LUMP GALLERIES, A WARMING TREND
By Chris Vitiello
After a bitter winter, spring has graced the Triangle, which means daffodils, forsythia and new art in Raleigh’s galleries. Before the blossoms and fresh air lure you out into the sun, take in some of the beautiful, obsessive artwork currently on display.
Adam Cave Fine Art is showing a pair of image-makers, Diana Bloomfield and Donald Furst, whose processes inform their works with mysterious qualities that will move you to want to become an initiate.
Diana Bloomfield’s pinhole and alternative-process photography endows her subjects with a hyperrealism. Many of the images are the result of a multicolor gum bichromate process that dates to the 1850s and produces a unique print. This process—which can take days—is similar to offset printing. She brushes an emulsion containing watercolor pigment onto paper, exposes it with a separation negative, develops it and then does it again, layering a different color.
Bloomfield reveals this process in a stunning quartet of portraits of pinned moths and flies. The insects appear neatly within a white square, around which Bloomfield’s emulsion brushstrokes are left visible. This chaotic rainbow perimeter plays foil to the calm images of the perfectly spread luna moth and damselfly, transforming them into kept secrets. A slight imprecision in registration of the colors lends an animate blur to the nocturnal moth, which must vibrate its wings to heat up its flight muscles in the absence of radiant sunlight.
Bloomfield also uses a complicated “platinum over pigment” process, which is explained on a lengthy gallery sheet. But the technical information isn’t necessary to admire the work. It’s her compositional eye in “Winter Kudzu” that recognizes a fascinating undulation in the leafless mesh of vines on bare trees. The platinum gives a radiant Polaroid darkness to the print, which plays up the threatening nature of the viral, ubiquitous plant.
Donald Furst’s engravings and lithography glow with dreamlike potential but resist surrealism. The perspective of his interiors is located in a darkened room that includes an open door to a lighted hallway. Or the image vanishes into a darkening passageway that dimly reveals a corner at its depth. Every doorway permits a swath of light in, which allows Furst to show his virtuosic skill at achieving gradations of gray.
Neither claustrophobic nor creepy, these empty rooms and disappearing corridors are more like being locked in an M.C. Escher office building overnight than stuck in a cyclical David Lynch set. Upon scrutiny, an elaborate mirror trick is perceptible in “Echolalia,” giving the sense of infinite iteration. But in a vitreograph titled “Strive? II,” steps terminate in blind walls, and suspended disintegrating ladders lead nowhere. The meditative precision of Furst’s process becomes slightly anxious in several miniature mezzotints only a couple of inches wide.
Currently the chair of the departments of art and art history at UNC-Wilmington, where he has taught since 1985, Furst possesses an astounding intaglio repertoire. His 13 images include woodcuts, mezzotints, lithographs and etchings. The woodcut “Higher Than” merits a visit all by itself. Put your nose an inch from its surface and scrutinize the detail in an area of treetops from which hewn ladders protrude. Then pick your lower jaw up from the floor.
November / December 2010
IT’S ALL GOODYEAR
By Chris Vitiello
And what is the predicament of the painter, a decade into the 21st century? After Modernists and Postmodernists have fought wars over abstraction and representation across canvasses now quietly hung in museums, what weapons, bandages, and tools remain for the contemporary studio painter to deploy?
Will Goodyear would answer, “All of them.”
Goodyear’s recent paintings can be read as an archive of the last 150 years of art, from the painterly gesture and the early days of photography, through improvisational elements of Abstract Expressionist non-objectivity, into a digital era in which images flutter through contexts like phantoms. On wooden panels layered with paint, beeswax, charcoal, oil pastel, and even tobacco juice, screen-printed buildings and historical scenes crouch beneath and jut into resonant skies. Upon eye contact, one is drawn into their atmospheric multiplicity, moving physically closer to them in order to see details open up.
Goodyear resolves these disparate aesthetics within uncomplicated compositions, the classical structure of which may be buried beneath literally ten or more layers. Balanced and simultaneous, these paintings stand as examples of why a trapeze artist is still called an artist.
Usually, at the beginning of an artist’s profile, their location is given with the word “based” after it, but even location is multiple right now for the 31-year-old Goodyear. He commutes several times a week between Greenville, where he is completing an MFA at East Carolina University and opening his thesis show November 5 at Emerge Gallery, and Raleigh, where he lives with his wife Debra and their young daughter Ainsley and shows work at Adam Cave Fine Art.
This commute leaves a visible, even filmic, impression on Goodyear’s paintings. The repetitive rushing-past of loblolly pines; the omnipresent sky, both exhilarating and ominous; the music blaring from the car’s stereo, ambivalent to the hurtling landscape—all of this informs a calm simultaneity in Goodyear’s work. If you’ve driven an eastern North Carolina interstate, you know this comfortable disorientation. It might not look like you’re getting anywhere regardless of your speedometer’s readout, but the landscape you’re speeding through is rich and varied, and eventually you arrive at your destination.
Goodyear himself is always both arriving and leaving. On the verge of finishing his studies, he’s living in both the present and the future, culminating his three years of school while seeking studio space and a new community of artists in the state capital. The key to his balancing it all is in those resonant skies.
Ralph Waldo Emerson’s journal entry that “The sky is the daily bread of the eyes” rings true in Goodyear’s work. Color fields, whether hovering above overlapping skylines of contemporary Raleigh and Seattle or above turn-of-the-century rioters in Wilmington, occupy the majority of the paintings’ areas. They contrast the congested, urban areas constructed at the bottom of the picture. “It gives your eye a definite place to rest,” Goodyear explains. “You can look at all of this stuff down here and try to take it all in. And you can always retreat to this large area of a more peaceful aesthetic. I could describe that as my own little retreat.”
There’s nothing simple, however, about these skies. The intensely worked and layered surfaces change as one walks toward or away from them and the different materials at different layers of the mix emerge.
Gallery owner Adam Cave, who showed Goodyear’s work along with that of Annemarie Gugelmann in the “Metropolitans” show this past October, carries a painting from room to room to display its optical complexities: “I have never had an artist whose work changes color so dramatically from daylight to electric lights. Because he puts a lot of very strong color underneath, and covers it up, different kinds of lights pull it out.”
Cave points to Seattle Study, which appears to be a nightscape. “This painting goes from the very dark, somber, umber quality you see here in daylight to, when it’s all electric light, completely green. Its brightness is so strong that it doesn’t seem that much darker than this painting here.” Cave points to Large Building, Larger Sky, a diptych on hollow-core doors featuring Raleigh’s Wachovia building beneath an unmistakable Carolina noon.
“I work really quickly and really up close while the materials are wet, to build up layers without thinking too much about the composition or formal characteristics,” Goodyear says of his process. “Everything is done with a sense of immediacy.”
Although outlining and tracing finds its way into the work in small ways, Goodyear employs neither drawing nor collage in any way. His literal images come solely from screen printing, polymer lift, and Xerox transfer techniques.
“A lot of unpredictable things happen in the transfer process,” he explains. “You lose a lot of the image and then you can pull it back. Once I put that imagery down, drawing helps to fill in some of the gaps, and to bridge the two worlds: the photo imagery with the gestural paint and texture.”
The unpredictability and disrupted imagery is as much for the mind as for the eye. When Goodyear fragments or complicates a historical image, he is representing its social complexity as well, while avoiding painting from a soapbox.
This fall, he is hanging his thesis show, which explores the idea of the public monument, focusing specifically on how Charles Aycock—North Carolina’s governor from 1901 to 1905—has been memorialized and misremembered. In ten pieces, some inset within a large wall engraved with Aycock’s words, Goodyear deals with both Aycock’s legacy as an advocate of public education, and his uncelebrated white supremacist platform and involvement in the 1898 Wilmington race riots. “There’s very little out there in the form of public monument that tells anything else about his public legacy,” he points out.
In a work entitled A Champion of Public Education, Amongst Other Things, Goodyear’s layered sky around a bronze statue of Aycock can be read as being stained with either the blood of rioters or legislative ink, or simply as a weathered parchment in a public square.
Goodyear also gathers images that document or refer to the rest of the story. His research is not so much aimed at truth-telling as it is at complicating the idea of a one-to-one correspondence between memorial and man, and more generally, image and meaning. Multiple historical moments dwell in one painting, proximate and interpenetrated, because their politics are irresolvable. In the end, a monument really only stares back.
Occasionally, Goodyear’s research literally determines the materiality of the paintings—some of the Aycock-related work contains layers of tobacco stains, emphasizing the link between the political machinery of eastern North Carolina and the economic fuel that powers it. “Aesthetics are wonderful, but I hope to be able to add some depth and deal with some actual issues,” Goodyear says.
He has already placed a few paintings in corporate or work environments around the Triangle, and done commissions “dealing with the visuals of that particular place, dealing with what the people see who live there, work there.” Expressing his aspirations for a painting in an office building lobby, he says “It’s basically fancy wallpaper, but hopefully a handful of people are forming some kind of connections with it. Whatever I have to say is pretty much useless if I’m the only one looking at it.”
Cave sees big things in his future: “Will has demonstrated over and over again that he has the chops, the staying power, the focus, the professionalism—and he was doing it prior to going back to school.”
Goodyear’s paintings reward multiple viewings over time, and provoke considerations of one’s place and its history. Regardless of how his personal transitions affect the imagery and ideas on the panels, his work will exemplify Ezra Pound’s assertion that great art is “news that stays news.”
NORTH RALEIGH NEWS
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010
THIS ARTIST’S FOCUS IS CAROLINA SCENES
By Chelsea Kellner – Staff Writer
In Portugal, Joseph Cave painted bright light falling on red earth and tiled roofs, casting crisp shadows, unfiltered by the ever-present humidity of his boyhood home in the South. On the California coast, he captured grand vistas backed by mountains, with more of that pure, clear light. But when he moved back to the Carolinas 20 years ago, his work changed. “Here, the light is much softer,” Cave said. “Painting becomes much more intimate.”
A show of Cave’s work capturing the cafes and cotton fields of North and South Carolina will open this weekend at the Adam Cave Fine Art gallery on East Hargett Street as part of the First Friday event downtown. With the galleries and restaurants of downtown Raleigh open late at the once-a-month event, Cave is one of many artists whose work art lovers can peruse by strolling the streets and watching for the First Friday flags to identify participating venues.
At Cave’s show, locals may recognize the Berkeley Cafe, painted under a blue sky with the skyscrapers of downtown in the background, or Logan’s flower market from Seaboard Station, said Adam Cave, gallery owner and the artist’s son. He also specializes in coastal scenes and floral paintings.
“It’s subject matter that people love and understand and respond to,” Adam Cave said. “It doesn’t require a master’s degree in art history to understand it.”
Cave’s style has undergone a dramatic revolution since his days as an art student at the University of Georgia in 1954. Cave started out as an abstract expressionist, working in an isolated cubicle facing a blank wall with his inner life as the only material from which to draw inspiration.
“Doing something that had never been done before was the preoccupation, but it was almost like all the doors had been opened and closed by the time I came along,” Cave said. “You were always seen to be parroting somebody who was already established.”
After a stint in the Army, Cave enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute to learn from a group called the Bay Area Figurative Painters who were gaining renown for their return to using subjects in their artwork.
“It had dawned on me that you could have more stimulation if you reverted to nature, because it’s always different and challenging,” Cave said.
Being able to paint from life was more fun, he said, especially because his abstract training had taught him how to work with only color and lines to design a compelling canvas.
Cave’s work in the Carolinas has been praised as “splendor without sentimentality” by Jim Fitch, director of the Rice Museum in Georgetown, S.C. The phrase appears in an essay Fitch penned for the first book of Cave’s paintings just published by his son’s gallery.
Cave’s work has been much collected locally in his two decades painting North Carolina. His work has hung in local restaurants and sports stadiums, as well as in private homes. Greensboro real estate developer Alex Gold owns six of Cave’s canvases. He can’t quite pinpoint what it is he loves about their depiction of scenes around Hillsborough and Apex, but in 20 years, he hasn’t tired of them.
“Picasso is out of my price range, but Joe Cave is the next best thing, as far as I’m concerned,” Gold said. “They have a depth to them I really enjoy.”