March 17, 2012

Alyssa Salomon in Town for Workshop & FotoFest

Curatorial Assistant, Ashley Powell, shares her thoughts and interview questions with artist Alyssa Salomon.

Above, from left to right: Alyssa Salomon, these wild ecstasies (for A. Siskin).
Cyanotype, waxed. 2010. Photo by Terry Brown. Alyssa Salomon, Tell Me again, the
World will be Beautiful.
  Van dyke, waxed. 2009. Photo by Terry Brown. Alyssa Salomon, Untitled.
Van dyke on handmade paper, metal, waxed. 2011. Photo by Alyssa C. Salomon.

Currently on display in the Artist Hall is the exhibition, Alyssa Salomon--The Handmade Print. Salomon’s works are stunning examples of contemporary photography that use 19th-century photographic processes as well as handmade surfaces. She uses Van Dyke printing, Cyanotype printing, and is a member of the international artist community of the Contemporary Daguerreotype.

Her work in the two series, Tell me again, The World Will Be Beautiful and Mind’s Eye, provides us with more than just a glimpse into the natural world. She hopes to evoke a sense of nostalgia, to “recall an abundance of sights seen, held dear, and linked by recollection -- scenes gathered through binoculars and focused eye, from shore and balcony, beyond the fence and within one’s garden.”

When I was unpacking these works and, as I pass by them every day, I am repeatedly struck by the artist’s representation of the often forgotten or overlooked pure and intrinsic beauty of nature, which is always surrounding us. These images are fleeting moments of the human experience. She demonstrates a unique way to view the trees, the birds on the telephone wires, the sea gulls circling overhead and our place within this natural world.

In the excitement surrounding having Alyssa in town this weekend to teach an alternative photographic processes workshop at the Museum of Printing History, I wanted to find out more about her work to share with our readers.

On your website, you said you’ve been taking photos since you received a camera on your eighth birthday, but when did you start experimenting with 19th-century photographic processes? What was it about these antique processes that enticed you to explore them further?

I had pretty much used the same silver-gelatin paper brand and just a couple film stocks for two decades until 2000, when in expanding a body of work that mined the visual language of vernacular photographs, I learned to make daguerreotypes, first in a Penland class with Jerry Spagnoli, and later as an apprentice to Robert Schlaer. The experience of seeing the world rendered in an unexpected photographic form and the compelling photographic objects that the process produced changed my studio practice.  19th-century and handmade photographic processes gave me brilliant tools to retell the world through photography.  And my successes with the complexities and subtleties of the daguerreotype process made me fearless.

Can you explain how you relate and compare your studio practice to the realm of contemporary craft?

I see my studio practice with handmade photographic processes as part of significant currents within contemporary craft and material studies, particularly the exploration of materials and intentionality around process. I use photographic printmaking the way a metalsmith might approach the fabrication of jewelry: everything is fair game as material and structure. My images are objects that result directly from their parts and methods. While process, for me, is important and necessary, it is not sufficient; process gives me tools for rendering for the viewer a sensory experience that embodies the physical delights of locating ourselves in the natural world. 

The capacities of light-sensitive compounds and the properties of paper provide voice to speak of the energy of the oceans, the blue of the sky, and the entrancement by birds. Ordinary and wondrous phenomena are my means and my subject.

Can you briefly explain to us your creative process, staring with the way in which you capture your photos?

My process is much like that of a birdwatcher in the field: disciplined by skill, attuned to sight, and gifted by chance.  But my purpose is to render the reality of the mind’s eye rather than the truth of the eye.  My images begin with a lens, but are realized through the properties of printing process.  Each unique picture is crafted with photographic chemistries, light, and hand work.  I mix my photographic solutions from basic compounds, brushing them on handmade and fine papers to produce light-sensitive surfaces on which negatives are exposed.  The final images, with velvety surfaces inherent to the van dyke and cyanotype methods and intensified with wax, are more like drawings than photographs, more like memories than documents.

In examining the roots of my infatuation with the natural world and with elemental photochemistry itself, I realized I owe much to an undergraduate education in the writings of British Romantic poets, and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English and French social history. A number of my titles are drawn from William Wordsworth’s poem, Tintern Abbey, which lays out a rich detailing of landscape and the transcendence of recollection.  Other titles in this body of work come either from Charles Wright’s book of poems, A Short History of the Shadow, or from my imagination. 

For the viewer, I hope these artworks together recall an abundance of sights seen, held dear, and linked by recollection--scenes gathered through binoculars and focused eye, from shore and balcony, beyond the fence and within one’s garden.

What aspects of the world we live in have inspired you to create this work you think of as a call “to inactive action”?

Pervading the work is a celebration of beauty and its pursuit.  In our consumer culture of throw-away imagery, environmental anxieties, financial turmoil, and unsettling political discourse, the contemplation of untamed beauty is essential to living life richly amidst the manmade. This project invites the viewer to inactive action:  to sit, to see, to acknowledge the accumulation of sensory experience, and to reminisce. 

Why is using handmade paper significant to your work? How do you choose what papers to use, and where do they come from?

Beginning to work with handmade paper was a revelation, but in hindsight it seems so obvious.  The processes I use--and the iconic images I use to create them--are so basic that each component has a significant impact.  With these handmade photographic processes--cyanotype, van dyke, salted paper--one has the light-sensitive emulsion one mixes from a few simple compounds, the paper it goes on, the brush, the light, and the negative or other material used to shape the light as it strikes the light-sensitive paper.  Much like cooking with only a few ingredients, the character, flavor and quality of each has a major impact on the outcome.

Amazing paper is being made these days--I'm lucky to have used a lot of paper made by Helen Hiebert, leftovers from Dieu Donne', and a few sheets made by Anne Marie Kennedy.  The marble, Steve Pittelkow, gave me a couple of dozen sheets, which were the last of his archives of paper he had made and collected over the decades. I'll try anything--you never know until you experiment what a paper can do, what the attributes of the paper will bring to the final image--surface texture, color, sizing, fiber content.  A paper's reactions with the photochemistry all affect the crispness, tone, detail, and value range of the image.  Paper that is pigmented means the image doesn't have white but is whatever color the paper is (pink, green, orange) and whatever the photographic chemistry is (blue with cyanotype, brown with van dyke).  The fiber content and sizing impact hue of the chemistry. There is a wonderful heavyweight kozo stocked by the photochemical supply house, Bostick & Sullivan, that I've been using for crisp images recently.

What are you most looking forward to during your visit to Houston?

Working with the creative community that surrounds HCCC & the Museum of Printing History is a great opportunity.  As a landscape, Texas and Houston are very unlike where I live--an ancient cypress swamp in an agricultural county outside Richmond, which is a small, East Coast city distinguished by small-scale, late-19th- and early-20th-century architecture.  I'm looking forward to the visual rush and disorientation that happens in looking at and negotiating the unfamiliar.  And, of course, coming to Houston during Fotofest is a great opportunity--how wonderful to be part of the outpouring of photographers and photography enthusiasts amid a photography extravaganza.

"A couple of snapshots that I've taken by kayak of where I live.
We moved here five years ago after decades of urban life--with the intention
of making the amazing and wild part of daily life and vision." Alyssa Salomon.

The workshop, Master Alt Photo Workshop with Alyssa Salomon: "The ABCs of Alternative Photographic Processes" takes place Saturday, March 17, 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM at the Museum of Printing History. The workshop is sold out.  Participants will make cyanotype and salted-paper prints, two of the easiest, earliest and loveliest 19th-century photographic processes.

For more information about the artist, visit

March 14, 2012

Come have your brain scanned!

Hello there, blog readers! 

We bring you this break from our normal format to let you know about a couple really exciting events in our gallery this week celebrating International Brain Awareness Week.

Come have your brain scanned and meet the artist of Bridge 11: Lia Cook

We’re happy to announce that artist, Lia Cook, of our large gallery exhibition, will be in the gallery this week from 2-4 pm Wednesday – Friday conducting experiments on the science of the looking at artwork with Dr. Luca Pollonini from the University of Houston. Come have your brain scanned with a NIRS machine (that’s Near Infrared Spectroscopy for all you science buffs) while you interact with Cook’s weavings—it’s not only a fantastic opportunity to meet the artist, but you’ll also be participating in her research! NIRS scanning takes place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 2-4 in the Large Gallery at HCCC.

Can’t make it during the day?

Come to a gallery conversation TONIGHT, Wednesday, March 14 from 6-8. You’ll be joining artist Lia Cook, Dr. Luca Pollonini, Research Assistant Professor at UH, and Dr. Tim Ellmore, Assistant Professor at The Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery, for an informal conversation about how NIRS and fMRI brain experiments work and how they inform Cook’s body of work. Promises to be a fascinating conversation!

For more information on this exhibitions, check out our website. More on Lia Cook here and on Brain Awareness Week here.

Thanks and hope to see you this week!

March 10, 2012

Hurry up and Apply! CraftTexas 2012 Call for Artists Closes March 15th!

CraftTexas 2012 call for artists will soon be coming to an end. All of us at HCCC encourage every one of you procrastinators out there to hurry up and submit your applications before March 15th.

The CraftTexas series began in 2002 and is one of the most significant exhibitions in the Texas craft community. For HCCC, it is an event deeply rooted in the core mission of our organization, and it serves as a starting place for the general public to appreciate the depth and breadth of craft being made in our own communities and across the state. To me, the excitement comes in seeing the incredible variety of work being created across Texas. Every craft medium is represented, and the show includes both functional and non-functional work. The historic traditions and legacy of craft can be seen along with works that exemplify contemporary conceptual craft.

When I was thinking about writing this blog post, I began to wonder about the artists who participated in CraftTexas 2010 and where their careers have taken them. So, I sent an email to a few of the artists who participated two years ago, asking them for an update and a photo or two of new work. Although my request was a little last minute, I received three responses! Catherine Winkler Rayround, Kira Kalondy and Rebekah Frank sent me brief statements summarizing their current artistic endeavors and accomplishments. Keep reading below to learn more about these artists, and, if you’re an artist, we hope you’ll apply for Craft Texas 2012!

Catherine Winkler Rayroud
, Award of Merit winner for CraftTexas 2010, practices the art of paper cutting. In an email response to me, she wrote:

“Winning the merit award at CraftTexas 2010 was very important for me and led to some other wonderful opportunities. The same year, I won a juror’s award at CraftForms 2010, taking place at the Contemporary Craft Center in Wayne, PA, which was followed by another merit award at the 25th International Juried Show taking place at the Visual Arts Center in Summit, NJ. These two shows had jurors coming from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The interesting thing with my paper cuttings is that I seem to constantly be able to cross the fine line between craft and contemporary art, and I feel very privileged to have found a medium that enables me to express my feelings, but also allows me to be a mirror of what is happening in our world today.”

“I also have a passion for the history of paper cuttings, and so I have been invited to give lectures and talks about this intricate art, which crosses borders and is practiced in many parts of the world. Last year, a museum in Germany asked me to organize a juried exhibition for the Guild of American Papercutters, and this show should start in June of this year if all goes well. Last year again, June Woest, from Urban Artists (, asked me if I would like to make a billboard, which would be exhibited along Bellaire Boulevard during the summer of 2011. The billboard was called ‘Enjoying the Rat Race???’ and was a wonderful experience and a completely new field for me.  Recently, I was invited to have three of my paper cuttings in the show, The Art of Seduction, taking place at the Rouse Company Foundation Gallery at the Howard Community College in Maryland, and curated by Gail Brown, who was one of the jurors of CraftTexas 2010. So lots of good things have happened to me, and it is very humbling to be able to do what I love most--paper cutting--and be able to get some recognition for it. I also started ‘cutting’ a book about women, and we will see where this new journey takes me.”

To read more about Catherine, visit

Catherine Rayroud. Mama Rebel Biker.  26" x 18.5". Photo by C. Winkler Rayroud.

Catherine Rayroud. Billboard: “Enjoying the Rat Race??? Photo by C. Winkler Rayroud.

Kira Kalondy, is a ceramic artist and metalsmith, who responded:

“After 2010, when I was selected to be included in Craft Texas 2010, I was also selected for the juried show, Texas National 2010, and was awarded an honorable mention by juror Judy Pfaff. Also, I was part of the 5th Annual Intercollegiate Metals Exhibition held by Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, and was awarded fourth place in the sculpture category. Besides this, I had a solo show called New Ceramics at Mary Hardin Baylor University in Belton, TX.”

“In 2011, I participated in some group shows, to name a couple: Sculpting Space at Goldesberry Gallery, in Houston, TX; Emerging Artists in Texas at College of the Mainland in Texas City, TX; and I also taught a two-day ceramic workshop at College of the Mainland.”

“Right now I am about to finish a Museum Studies Certificate from Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) in Nacogdoches, TX, and I work as the Event Coordinator for the SFASU Art Galleries (The Cole Art Center and the Griffith Gallery). This month of March, I have a solo show called Fusion at Lone Star College – Montgomery County in Conroe, Texas. The show runs from March 5-30, with a closing reception on the 29th.”

Be sure to check out her webpage at

Kira Kalondy, GĂ©nesis. Ceramic, 9” x 22.5” x 12.5”, 2012. Photo by Christopher Talbot.
Kira Kalondy, Amanecer. Ceramic, 15” x 22” x 18”, 2012. Photo by Christopher Talbot.
Kira Kalondy, Lapislázuli. Ceramic, 10” x 22” x 23”, 2012. Photo by Christopher Talbot.

Rebekah Frank, a jeweler and metalsmith from Wimberly, TX, shared the following:

“I am currently at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, graduating in May with an MFA in Metalsmithing. I am working on a body of work, Catenate Collection, that will be shown at the Cranbrook Museum as part of the Degree Show exhibition. I will have work in the traveling exhibition, Mirror, Mirror, which will be shown at Espace Solidor in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, and Velvet da Vinci in San Francisco, California.”

You can find more of Rebekah’s work on her website:

Rebekah Frank. Catenate Collection, Various Necklaces, 2012.
Steel, 18 karat gold or silver solder. Photo Credit: Rebekah Frank

--Ashley Powell, HCCC Curatorial Assistant