Unique photos

UWL professor shares work inspired during sabbatical.

UWL professor shares work inspired during sabbatical

A UW-La Crosse Art Department faculty member will show her unique artwork of photographs captured without using a camera. Associate professor Linda Levinson perfected the works during a sabbatical in spring 2018.

For her sabbatical, Levinson received two artist residences: at Yaddo Artist Fellowship in Saratoga Springs, New York, and at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Fellowship in Amherst, Virginia. In both she was assigned a living space and work studio with uninterrupted time to focus on art. “The community at these residencies pushes each other to refine and improve their work,” explains Levinson. “Fellows in other disciplines provided invaluable feedback on my art.”

“The community at these residencies pushes each other to refine and improve their work,” explains Levinson. “Fellows in other disciplines provided invaluable feedback on my art.”

During the sabbatical Levinson had an exhibition from her series, “Hidden Souls of Books,” at the Madison Central Library in February 2018. Since then, she has produced many new works on paper that utilize photographic ephemera and made the final prints of a series of black and white photograms — photographs made without a camera — of books, for a new series, “Incidents of Light.” To make the photograms, she placed a book on the surface of photo-sensitive paper, exposed it to light and developed it.

“Incidents of Light” differs from her Madison exhibit in that the way that the image is not as dependent on what one might infer from its title. Both bodies of her work will be exhibited in the University Art Gallery. The exhibition opens with a reception from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Gallery, on the first floor of the Center for the Arts, 333 N. 16th St. Admission is free. ***Due to extremely cold weather…the opening reception has been moved to 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7.

The exhibit runs through Thursday, Feb. 13. Regular gallery hours are noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and during events in Toland Theatre. Exhibitions are free. Refer questions or arrange gallery appointments to the Art Department at 608.785.8230.

Levinson says she approached her sabbatical not only to create unique art, but as a way to improve student-learning opportunities for a wide range of courses. “The photography courses I teach are enriched with content from my experiences at the residences by teaching students the importance of focus and concentration while working on an extended project, setting up an artist studio in a site-specific location, editing, sequencing and producing final photographs for exhibition,” she notes.

About ‘Incidents of Light’

Artist Linda Levinson:

“I have begun a series of traditional black and white and cyanotype photograms (photographs made without the use of a camera) of books when I had access to a massive scholarly library, ranging from 19th century classical texts to contemporary small-press volumes of poetry, with many volumes devoted to philosophy and religion. The thousands of books on the shelves of this library impressed me, realizing that it would be impossible for me to read even a partial portion of them in my lifetime. I began to wonder that if I touched each book, and held it in my hands, I would come to possess another kind of knowledge from that act; a transference of energy that I might feel, or a mystical experience emanating from each book if I made a photogram of it.

Photogram from “Incidents of Light” series.

“I began by selecting books whose titles attracted me, such as: The Writings of Anna Freud, The Sanskrit-English Dictionary, the King James Bible, Tristan Tzara’s Selected Poems. I have retained the titles of the books and the order in which I made the prints as my titles for the images; for the very titles of the books I used resonate with the inner source of light I have culled from them.

“To make the photograms I placed the book that I had selected on the surface of photo-sensitive paper, exposed it to light and developed it. I called the residual image that appeared after development a ‘pneumatic’ trace, a presence of an absence.

“This process results in an image that captures the imagination by transforming the actual object-hood of a book into a visual abstraction in monochrome. When successful, the print is capable of evoking the mystery of the essence of the object itself and at times, even hints at its subject matter. In this process I explore the specificity of photography — as I have done in different modes throughout my career — convinced that its essence is most directly manifested when photography does not primarily or merely represent the way things look.”

If you go
Who:  Linda Levinson
What: “Incidents of Light”
When: Opening reception from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31. Exhibit runs through Feb. 13. Regular gallery hours are noon-8 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and during events in Toland Theatre.
Where: University Art Gallery, 333 16th St. N., La Crosse    
Admission: All events are free