Community Issue 

May 2001



Diane Fenster


 Artist's Statement



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     Art Show



The Alchemy of Vision by Celia Rabinovitch
with Diane Fenster

Excerpted from “The Alchemy of Vision,” a chapter in “Women, Art and Technology” edited by Judy Malloy to be published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press in 2001


Beyond the Architecture of Photography

My involvement with digital imaging began over a decade ago. Its excitement lay in that fact that I could manipulate, edit and expand the photomontage format. There is a tension or contradiction in my creative practice, because I use this digital technology to create psychological narratives that relate both to a “collective unconscious” and to my own process of individuation. These are seemingly non-rational or symbolic aspects of human life that we can capture using a supposedly “rational” machine: the difference is that the computer “thinks” sequentially.

Juxtaposition — placing two or more seemingly unrelated images together and creating a new relationship, a new reality- is the source of most of my work. In this way, my art reflects the Dadaist and Surrealist prescription for creating a new art of “the marvelous” or the magical. Similarly, I am drawn to the magical realism of Latin American writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Vicente Huidobro, Octavio Paz, Pablo Neruda, and others. Juxtaposition allows me to create a sense of surprise and internal meaning. In my use of both digital and photographic mediums I make these two realities meld and merge, pushing it beyond the innovations of the Surrealists, who depended on disjunction in the montages of Max Ernst and others. This approach allows me to present a near-cinematic narrative based on the relationship of disparate images in one frame. While in my earlier work I utilized “found” photographs as a starting point for the final image, I now make my own photographs, choosing my models, the setting, and the lighting according to the creative impulse for each work. My use of photography has opened up a realm of possibilities for my work. This pursuit of images with intrinsic meaning and sensual beauty is impelled by intuitive choices that allow me to create metaphors charged with symbolism and emotion.

My work derives technically from two different mediums, from the computer which I first learned as a graphic design tool, and from photography which I initially used as “found” material in the vintage or family photographs that I used in my art. It also derives from the practice of photography itself which I began to explore in 1992 by taking my own photographs as a source for the images, or photomontages, that I had created with my earlier work. My experiments with photography opened a surprising new realm of meaning for my work, as I was able to find my own voice and create personal landscapes from images that persistently impelled me to photograph

I have moved beyond the current “hard edge” designs of many digital artists, and intend to create, as the Surrealists did, a world where image, content, and color merge; where borders are not so well defined, and meanings can oscillate. Digital technology excels in giving me a way of crafting dreamlike sequences that float into each other, overlap, and merge, giving a sense of inner process and change rather than a defined message. Then too, the viewer may be unaware that the art was created on the computer, as the images should attract with their own force. Unlike most photographers who learn photography first, I learned the computer first and photography later. Photography allowed me to stretch and personalize the capabilities of computer software in creating images that overlap the fields of fine art, illustration, and design. Each of these requires knowing computer skills, but additionally for my art I must push myself beyond a given project to creating an image that embodies a feeling I have about the world. My work combining the computer with my own photography allows me to move beyond the limitations of both mediums; that is the fixed frame of reference of the photograph, and the fractured space of most digital art that uses layers. Instead I look for an internal resonance between the images, building a final vision that I hope holds together poetically as well as visually. The photograph, for me, has been a means to an end; the starting point of the work. By combining the two tools of camera and computer, my art is more complete.

©MIT Press 2000



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