Monday, February 22, 2016

Sharon Lee Hart

Sharon Lee Hart is a D.C. born fine art photographer and a professor at Florida Atlantic University. She earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her first monograph, Sanctuary: Portraits of Rescued Farm Animals was published in 2012. Hart’s photography and mixed media works have been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally.

Sharon Lee Hart's solo exhibition, According to the Sky, is currently on view until March 9, 2016 in conjunction with the Joyce Elaine Grant Exhibition at Texas Woman's University in Denton, TX. Hart was selected as the solo show award winner by April Watson, Curator of Photography The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO in 2015.

Artist’s Statement: According to the Sky

“The stars we are given. The constellations we make. That is to say, stars exist in the cosmos, but constellations are the imaginary lines we draw between them, the readings we give the sky, the stories we tell.” — Rebecca Solnit, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics

This project is a meditation on the sea. Personal narratives are formed by filtering ideas about the sea through a variety of subjects, including mythology, astronomy and mysticism. The ocean is a link to the cosmos, a backdrop and central character. We live on a planet whose surface is mostly covered in water and in bodies that are at least half composed of water – we are physically and psychologically connected to the ocean. The photographs are made in the water and on the shore. The shoreline, our evolving human access point is where earth and sea meet. This constantly shifting border between the known and unknown can be seen as a metaphor for change. The photographs are toned to give a nod to traditional darkroom practices. Blue was chosen to reference the natural hydrological cycle and the color of the sea being in part a reflection of the sky. The images are made with a medium format film camera and a DSLR. The photographs are printed with archival inks on hand-coated hosho paper.

Interview conducted by Deedra Baker

Deedra Baker: Your series According to the Sky is inspired by the land and sea. Do you find inspiration from other sources like fellow artists, literature, experiences, etc?

Sharon Lee Hart: Absolutely! During this project, I was inspired by readings on mythology, astronomy, and mysticism. Certain essays in Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics by Rebecca Solnit resonate with me so deeply that I used a quote from the book in my project statement. During the paper coating and printing process I listened almost exclusively to the band Warpaint. Their sound set the mood and helped determine the tone of the photographs. Daydreaming while floating in the water and also being mercilessly tossed around in the waves impacted the project.

DB: How do you think about your selection of props in conjunction with the human figure? What part do they play in your “meditation on the sea?”

SLH: Many of the objects the human figures are interacting with were made or selected for their symbolism or cultural meaning. In my mind, the props elevate the figures into something magical or mythological. Props are used sparingly as I only wanted to include essential information; nothing extraneous allowed in the frame. Simplicity is part of the mediation.

DB: Describe your working methodology. What is your process for creating your photographs and decisions like square versus circular format and your choice of paper?

SLH: For the most part the idea was first, although it sometimes evolved while making the photograph. The circles reference a continuous cycle and planets. Squares are stable and represent a decisive cut from a scene. Printing is expressive and I had a very specific look in mind. After way too much experimentation with variations of paper and tones, I found that hand-applied emulsion on Hosho paper gave me the look I was after. I was drawn to the visible brush strokes and the way the ink melted into the paper.

Installation shots from According to the Sky, currently on view in conjunction with the Joyce Elaine Grant Exhibition at Texas Woman's University

DB: What is your editing process for creating a body of work and a solo exhibition?

The editing process was a bit different for this series, as I mostly knew what I wanted in advance, making the process easier than usual. For other projects, I have spent a good deal of time editing down, considering pairings, and sequence. Removing images from a series can be brutal, but satisfying. We all can get overly attached to certain images, so it is helpful to have a trusted pair of eyes look at your work and assist with editing.

The space that comes with a solo exhibition is exciting as it enables you to share your vision with an audience in a tangible way and hopefully start a dialogue. I also viewed this exhibition as an opportunity to experiment with small installations and 3D printing to give context to the photographs. Four of these installations are included in the exhibition.

DB: As a seasoned artist with a monograph and several solo exhibitions under your belt, do you have any advice for emerging photographers?

: I still consider myself emerging, but am happy to share a few thoughts...

-Always select subjects that deeply resonate with you.

-Be aware of, but don’t follow trends.

-Take responsibly for the work you put out into the world.

-Experiment and allow yourself to make mistakes.

-If you are serious, you will always make time for your work. Build it into your schedule.

-Be able to place your work in historical and contemporary context.

-Allow yourself to be inspired by things outside of the art world.

-Acknowledge that no one makes work in a vacuum; we are all inspired by others.

-Be open to feedback, not everything will resonate, but when it does it will help propel your work forward.

-Don’t underestimate the amount of time and money it takes to produce, frame, package and ship work for a solo exhibition. Build in extra time for correcting mistakes and start setting aside funds as soon as possible.

-Have specific goals and a written timeline to help keep you on track.

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