Amy Friend in Under Astral Skies

Amy Friend in Under Astral Skies

Posted by on Jan 30, 2015 in Liz Sales | No Comments

While I’ve recurrently had the pleasure of crossing paths with the uncanny work of Amy Friend for a number of  years, I have only just had the pleasure of speaking with the Canadian artist herself this past week. Amy is currently included in the exhibition “Under Astral Skies”which  is on view at 555 Gallery in South Boston through February 14th. The Reception and Gallery Talk with the artists is on Saturday, February 7 5-8PM.


Liz Sales: Congratulations on being included in Under Astral Skies at 555 Gallery!

Amy Friend: Thanks!

LS: I’ve always wondered: Do the points of light in your work refer to actual constellations?

AF: I am not that literal. I’m playing with a more metaphoric type of astrophotography, alluding to something that’s gone. Many of the stars we see are long dead, like the people in the images I use.

LS: Sort of like how a photograph is composed of time and space but also removed from time and space?

AF: Yes. I’m wondering, what is the state of the stars whose light we are seeing now? What value does a discarded snapshot have a hundred years later? What meaning am I bringing to it?



Are We Stardust

LS: Could you talk a little bit about the meaning you are bring to these images?

AF: I’m adding light. Photographs are already made of light; I’m interested in seeing what happens when I add light to them over and over again. My titles are important to the meaning of the work as well. With my process and titles I am “playing” with the medium while using the imagery to represent possible interpretations. The titles hint at the history of the photograph and/or to the medium of photography

LS: Could you give me an example?

AF: “What is done in the darkness, will be brought to the light” uses a photo is from a river baptism. It specifically connects to the visual imagery but also to the processes involved in making an analog photograph.

24_And the light shines in darkness

And the light shines in darkness

LS: Were you raised religiously?

AF: I’m very much interested in the idea of the spiritual, but not so much in a concrete way. I’m not a practicing Catholic. But I remember my grandma running around the house with holy water: sprinkle, sprinkle. The darkroom is a sort of sacrament: Bring images out of the darkness and into the light. And my process is a way of giving images a second life. But sometimes anonymous people online respond negatively to my work, which I find interesting.

LS: How so?

AF: They say that using other people’s images is not a way of making art or they are offended that I am destroying someone else’s pictures. I feel that I’m honoring these photographs by giving them a second life.

LS: Exactly. I see your work as recycling material in the same way that you are recycling meaning?

AF: Yes, but each image also has its own story as well.



LS: Does it also feel, to some degree, like there is so much photographic material out there that it would be a waste to start from scratch?

AF: No, it’s more that existing images and other objects have a history and I’m interested in that history. For example, I’m starting a new project using some things that belonged to my great-uncle. My great-uncle was a bit of a hermit, but our family befriended him and got to know more about his life before he died. Many years earlier, his wife went in for routine surgery but died. She’d written him a letter before going in, which I have; of course, I’ve ended up being  the keeper of the things from the dead.

LS: What does it say?

AF: Something like, “My Dearest Bill, Just in case things don’t go well, the papers are taped under the drawer in our bedroom. I love you very much.” It is very simple, but so sad. I’m trying to figure out how to make work with it and the other objects. I’d like to do something more than re-photograph them. I’m working towards an exhibition.

LS: Congratulations! When and where will that be?

AF: Rodman Hall in in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. It will open January of 2016 and is curated by Marcie Bronson.

8-Latesummerevening,Ontario, 1927web

Late summer evening Ontario

AF: …I think I might burn the letter.

LS: Oh, wow, that’s intense. And it also speaks to an issue central to your work: Do objects matter after there’s no one they’re significant to?

AF: Does anything matter when we are gone? Why? Why not?

LS: Is reading a significant part of your practice? I ask because sometimes your titles refer to texts and you are currently working with a letter.

AF: I love literature and yes, it is important, but at the moment, I’m focused on personal writing. I have letters written by my family, sent between Italy and Canada over a 40-year period, many during WW1. They’re all handwritten and so beautiful.

12-January30,1953webJanuary 30, 1953

LS: Oh, interesting. Are you going to burn them too?

AF: No, but I think a lot of my work plays with the idea of what is seen.  Do we need to be seen to have existed? Photography really messes with this thought. I’ve been asked, “if you could have only one photo taken of yourself, what would it be?”  I love that question because it gets to the idea that in order to exist we need to be visualized.

LS: I’ll be looking forward to seeing how this all materializes. Thanks so much for chatting with me!

AF: Of course. It was nice to finally meet you.


Frances F. Denny’s Let Virtue Be Your Guide

Frances F. Denny’s Let Virtue Be Your Guide

Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Authors, Liz Sales | No Comments

This week I’ve been chatting about family, femininity and the decline of the Protestant elite with Frances F. Denny, a photo-based artist who lives in Brooklyn. Nine pieces from her series Let Virtue Be Your Guide are included in the all-women exhibition at NYU‘s Gallatin Gallery, “All You Can Be” on view through Jan. 25th, 1 Washington Place, New York, NY.

GallatinGallery_installshots_3789 copy

Gallatin Gallery, NYU. “All You Can Be” 2015

Frances F Denny: How have you been?

Liz Sales: Good. Well, actually, my mom fell through the attic floor. She’s okay but things have been…

FFD: Oh, my God! Is she alright?

LS: She is going to be alright. It sounds so crazy out loud, “My mom fell through the attic floor.”  I think that’s why I keep saying it. But, I’m over-sharing. That’s actually probably a good segue.

As an over-sharer, I feel a little anxious around your work: In Let Virtue Be Your Guide, your subjects, your family and friends, are unmistakably reserved, New England WASPs. I, on the other hand, am totally incapable of refraining from telling everyone everything that’s going on in my life. We’ve set aside this time to talk about you and your practice and I haven’t stopped talking about myself. I can feel the people in your pictures silently judging my poor manners.

FFD: That’s great! I want there to be something about the work that is a little bit unnerving, a little bit wrong. The aesthetics of New England have been co-opted by fashion labels, but I’m not trying to make a Ralph Lauren catalog. Do you know what I mean?

LS: Absolutely. Do you remember the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs?

AF Abercrombie and Fitch Magazine Catalogue - Spring Break 2007 - 183 AF Abercrombie and Fitch Magazine. Issue 183. Spring Break, 1997

FFD: Yes! I remember saving up my allowance to buy them. I would cut them up and tape the pages to my walls so I could covet the boys and the clothing.

LS: What do you have on your walls these days?

FFD: Nothing, I moved to a new studio last week.

LS: That’s right.  I can’t picture you in a studio. I was wondering what it is you do there?

FFD: That’s a really good question. None of this work was shot in a studio. I’m beginning a new project, surrounding ’90s girlhood, which is more studio-based.

LS: You’ve worked with images of Disney princesses in the past.

FFD:  This is coming from the same place. I’m thinking about the life of objects that act as a sort of prescription for femininity because I am both attracted to and critical of these things. I could say the same about WASP culture. It makes me uncomfortable but it is a part of me. So, I would like to put some critical distance between these things and myself.

LS: How do your subjects feel about that? How did you explain this project to them? And then, how do they feel now that they’ve seen it?

FFD: My immediate family understands the project best. They are used to being in front of my camera. They understand what I am doing and I appreciate that they have been obliging about almost every single image. My broader circle of family and friends know that I’m interested in documenting this WASP culture and are puzzled but, at the same time, excited to help me. I’m honestly so grateful to all of them.


Frances F. Denny, Inheritances, 2013

LS:  Your title comes from a piece if embroidery?

FFD:  “Let Virtue Be a Guide to Thee” was the title of a 1982 Rhode Island Historical Society exhibition of colonial girls’ embroidery samplers. I discovered the catalog in a library and I began thinking about this word “virtue.” I feel like is not a commonly used word so much anymore.

LS: I hear it used ironically.

FFD: Right, exactly, because, historically it’s about chasteness, the preservation of virginity. But I wonder, what does it mean to live a moral life as a woman today?

LS: Did you have a religious upbringing?

FFD: Not at all. I’m not even baptized. But, I’m interested in various ideals placed on women. I’m interested in models for perfection, whether it is New England’s or Disney’s. I’m reading Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist, and there is a passage that expresses what I am after:

“I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say that I have all the answers. I am not trying to say that I’m right. I am just trying – trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself…”

I like the idea of being an imperfect feminist. I think a lot of my work is about how I fail at being a feminist, at least in the way we think a feminist is “supposed” to be. I’m interested in the struggle to be a good woman, to be virtuous, to be a feminist, in whatever ways you define those things.

GallatinGallery_installshots_3784 copy

Gallatin Gallery, NYU. “All You Can Be” 2015

LS: Why don’t you appear in your images?

FFD: I used to. I definitely went through a period of doing self-portraits—my obligatory Francesca Woodman phase. I think vanity can get in the way of working with self-portraits. I wanted to disrupt that. If I was looking at a contact sheet filled with pictures of myself, how would I be sure I was selecting the most meaningful image? I think I use the outside world as a way of shooting self-portraits now.

LS: That’s a really interesting answer.  So, the image of the half-eaten wedding cake is—

FFD: It’s a birthday cake. It resembles a kind of crumbling edifice. I see the WASP world disappearing.

There’s an article by Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard about the decline of the Protestant elite, which is a positive thing, because it was a kind of unofficial American aristocracy for a long time.

Frances F. Denny, My Mother’s Hands, 2012

LS: You’ve talked about this lineage as being passed down from one woman to another, so I am curious about your relationship with your mother, both as a mother and a subject.

FFD: I’m asked that often. We have a good relationship. She understands the pressures that I’m trying to express in the work, because she feels them, too. More and more, she understands the project and she plays the part of this particular woman in this particular world. I think of my Mom as a collaborator.

LS: Me too.

GallatinGallery_installshots_3787 copy

Gallatin Gallery, NYU. “All You Can Be” 2015


Faith Holland and Chatrooms III: Click, Click, Click

Faith Holland and Chatrooms III: Click, Click, Click

Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 in Authors, Liz Sales | No Comments

New York-based multimedia artist, Faith Holland, has been chatting with me about Chatrooms III: Click, Click, Click, the survey of contemporary digital moving image practices—GIFs, augmented performances, green screen keying, collage, appropriation, Processing and 3D renders— she and Nora O’ Murchu curatedChatrooms is a series of one-night-only digital art screenings, installations, and conversations organized by Morehshin Allahyari and Willa Köerner from Gray Area Art and Technology’s Cultural Incubator in San Francisco. It will be screening and streaming Thursday, January 15 at 7:00 pm.  Faith’s own solo show, Technophilia, will open at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn this June.


Dafna Ganani, I Dream of I Dream of Jennie, 2013, 3:42 min.

Liz Sales: Where are you living these days?

Faith Holland: Providence and New York. We’ll be in New York full-time in June. My partner is at Brown.

LS: Your upcoming exhibition, Chatrooms III: Click, Click, Click, is not in NY?

FH: It’s been traveling. It showed in New York in August. It was originally a companion to Coded after Lovelace, an exhibition Nora and I curated as well. This screening is part of a curated series that Morehshin Allahyari and Willa Koerner are doing at Gray Area, in San Francisco.

LS: What is Chatrooms?

FH: Chatrooms is the name of Gray Area’s series. This is their third event; other events have been screenings of Lorna Mills’ Ways of Something and GIFbites. They have a really great Tumblr.

LS: What was your and Nora’s curatorial strategy?

FH: We were putting together Coded after Lovelace as an intergenerational show of women artists working with technology. We found there were a lot of other artists we wanted to include but couldn’t due to budget and time constraints, so we put together this screening to focus on contemporary digital video practice. I really wanted to highlight a variety of approaches.

LS: Are their particular challenges for female digital video artists? Or advantages?

FH: On the production end, they’re not particular at all. But exhibition after exhibition includes a disproportionate number of men. Our program itself does not have anything to do with being a woman. It doesn’t NEED to be explained through the lens of gender; this is a screening of strong, contemporary digital works.

Honestly, our original press releases left out the word “women” even though we very strictly curating that way.

LS: Fair enough. Is this solely a seated screening or are there additional ways to view the work?

FH: It’s a seated screening. You sit and watch. I like to show this work in this way because it forces you to pay attention to and think about these disparate pieces in relation to each other.

LS: I think I’d enjoy sitting in a quiet room and watching a GIF.

FH: Yes! I wasn’t sure how it would work at first, but I really liked the experience.


GIF Grab Bag, Faith Holland, (series), Various, GIFs.

LS: It sounded like there may be a discussion after the screening?

FH: Well, Morehshin, who is co-organizing it, also has a piece in the exhibition, and another artist in the program, Tessa Siddle, who is local to SF. I think Chatrooms’ mission is to open up dialogues about digital work, both formally and informally.

LS: Other than choosing from digitally native work made by women, how did you make your selection? What was your criterion?

FH: I looked for work that had some element—either formally or content-related—that was specific to digital. It’s really a medium-driven show, so there are artists working in 3D, GIF, digital collage, green screen, projections, with mobile technology, etc. etc. The works use but also reflect the tools.
LS: That makes sense. A lot of the work you selected is highly self-reflexive and medium-specific in a way that is reminiscent of experimental filmmakers in the 1960s, like Stan Brackage. And it seems like these artists are particularly interested in re-contextualizing imagery appropriated as well?

Mothlight, Stan Brakhage, 1963. 1:06min

FH: Yes, I think that’s a reflection of the technology as well as my own bias since that’s what I do with my work. It’s also a particular curating interest of mine.  I put together a program called From the Cloud, which was specifically about digital appropriation works from Found Footage 2.0.

LS: And you have relationships with some of these artists across multiple curatorial projects as well?

FH: Yes,  Jillian Mayer was also in From the Cloud and she was in the New York exhibition of Coded After Lovelace. When the screening traveled I wanted to include her video work. I love the way she uses this Youtube form—the makeup video tutorial, which I’ve spent plenty of time looking at myself—as a critique of surveillance.

Jillian Mayer, MakeUp Tutorial HOW TO HIDE FROM CAMERAS, 2013, 3:36 min

LS: That piece has an interesting relationship to Sabrina Ratté’s The Land Behind.

FH: Oh yes, aesthetically, there are some rhymes. I wouldn’t have thought of that; that’s interesting.

Sabrina Ratté, The Land Behind, 2013, 4:56 min.

LS: Yes, and if I understand them correctly, they also address strategies for withholding information from technology?

FH: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting way to read Sabrina’s work.

Sabrina is also doing a major installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York which opened on Friday.

LS: There is a lot of humor in the work you’ve chosen too. For example, Claudia Bitran’s Zone is a series of three trailers for movies that do not exist.

FH: Yes, there’s a lot of humor but also many serious notes, like in Morehshin’s and Tessa’s pieces. Morehshin makes 3D video environments about being away from Iran, where she grew up. I love the gesture of recreating a place you can’t go back to.

Tessa’s work is about breaking down limits and boundaries between genders, humans and non-humans, etc. Erica Scourti’s piece is about digitally imaging and sharing our bodies.

I love humorous work—like Claudia Bitran’s piece, Lorna Mills’ work, or Nicole Killian’s videos—and I particularly like to weave the serious and humorous together because I think it benefits both. For me there’s no hierarchy between the two.

LS: That is a thread that runs through a lot of new media work: the relationship between our natural and constructed worlds.

FH: Definitely. Eva Papamargariti’s work is a great example of that; she is really thinking about how the digital escapes the rules of the natural world but is always bringing in elements from reality.

[vimeo 88067457 w=500 h=281]

Eva Papamargariti, RandomAccessData, 2014, 4:50 min.

LS: You seem to be interested in something similar in your own work. How has curating affected your personal practice? Or is it just an extension?

FH: Nora, my co-curator, is a true and proper curator. Honestly, it’s a distraction for me. I love curating because there’s so much work that I see my peers making that I want to share with audiences, but right now, I need to take a step back and refocus on my own practice because I’m working on my first solo show.

LS: Congratulations!

FH: Thanks! I’m very excited.

LS: Where/what/when?

FH: It is going to be called Technophilia, and it’s going to be at Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn in June.

LS: Could you tell me a little about it?

FH: It’s going to be a multimedia show with some GIFs, some digital collages, and some sculptures, which will be new for me. They’re all going to deal with sexuality and technology. I’m thinking about the way we access sex via technology, with an emphasis on the interface of the technology.

LS: What’s your relationship to sexuality and technology?

FH: Well, I grew up on the Internet, I went through puberty on the Internet, I met my partner on the Internet. A lot of my sexual development happened online, and I’m interested in how sex and sexuality are accessed.

[vimeo 74992109 w=500 h=313]

Chelsea Manning’s Pussy, Faith Holland, 2013, 4:45 min.

LS: I’ll put your show in my calendar too. Thanks for chatting with me!

FH: Yeah, thanks for covering the show!!

Photo of Home From Home

Photo of Home From Home

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015 in T. Cole Rachel | No Comments

Photo of Home From Home

by Richard Deutch



I used to leave this granite house

after everyone else was asleep,

and, walking down the hill, come to the

woods just behind you snapped

this photo, old friend, who think I can bear

to look at it.


The full moon loomed so close

I’d think I could reach out and gather it

into folds, until I noticed

one star fallen out of the side,

blinking to know where it was,

dead probably, by then, or now.


One night when I was seven

I stood in the dining room, staring

at the decanter on the drinks cart

shining like fool’s gold, its liquor smelling

of honey and rosin, belly flat

as mother’s breast

as she lay back to sleep beside me.


Later, I caught the moon,

through the dormer window nearest the spot

this photo was taken, a crescent

chunk of old ice.



From Heart, with Piano Wire


by Richard Deutch.

Copyright © 2002 by Richard Deutch. Reprinted by permission of Bright Hill Press. All rights reserved.