Elizabeth Matheson is one of North Carolina’s most important photographers. Her work is subtle and quiet, taking as its subject the old homes and landscapes of the South.
In her interior shots, Matheson masterfully captures images that seem frozen in time.
Born in Hillsborough, North Carolina in 1943, she studied with John Menapace at the Penland School over 30 years ago, and has had solo shows at numerous venues including the North Carolina Museum of art and the Gregg Musuem at NCState.
We featured Matheson in our previous post about the art collection at the NCState Chancellor’s House. Four of Matheson’s photographs grace that home’s stair hall and dining room (below).
You may not have heard of Julius Shulman, but I bet you’ve seen his photos. Schulman (1910-2009) was the foremost architectural photographer of the 20th century, and was responsible for spreading the popularity of California modernism all over the world.
Shulman lived in Los Angeles, and got his start when the architect Richard Neutra saw a photograph that Shulman had taken. In the early 20th century, new ideas about architecture were spread mainly through images and publications. Much like today, most people experienced design through photographs rather than personal experience. At the forefront of architectural photography, Shulman shaped the way the rest of the world saw the newest buildings.
His unique way of composing photographs was true to modern aesthetics, and architects from around the world continued to seek his expertise until his death in 2009. He was known for employing single-point persepective in his pictures; he held the camera horizontally so that all lines converged toward a vanishing point in the center of the frame.
It may sound simple, but this trick allowed him to emphasize the clean lines, sweeping views, and dramatic perspectives inherent in modern buildings. Tom Ford, famous Gucci designer, once remarked that Shulman actually made buildings appear more beautiful than in real life.
I highly recommend the 2008 movie Visual Acoustics, which chronicles the life and work of the photographer. The film is narrated by Dustin Hoffman and features interviews with Frank Gehry and Tom Ford. It also features numerous photographs and footage of modern landmarks – the next best thing to seeing these great buildings in person. Here’s the trailer:
In the past few weeks I’ve been busy organizing a show for Philadelphia artist Zoe Strauss to be held next Saturday at Iceberg Projects in Chicago. Iceberg Projects is a non-profit gallery space that began last year, and so far has exhibited a variety of excellent artists from all over the United States.
Zoe Strauss is one of my favorite artists because her photographs speak intimately about her surroundings and bring dignity to people that are often overlooked.
A heart-warming generosity pervades her work and personality; at many of her early shows, she gave away her prints for free to anyone who attended. She also makes all of her photographs available on Flickr, including those that don’t “make the cut” for exhibitions. It gives the public a rare opportunity to see inside the painstaking process of refinement inherent in her practice.
The Iceberg Projects exhibition will feature a narrated slide show of photographs she took documenting the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, she will show photographs printed on vinyl banners, a format more closely associated with outdoor signs and advertisements.
Take a look, and I know you’ll find beauty in unexpected places.
I recently spent some time at the archives of NC State University searching for art to adorn the walls of the new Chancellor’s house. The University has a rich history in science, and many of the images I found were made for scientific purposes. Although they weren’t always intended as art, I was pleased to find that many of them could look beautiful as decorative pieces.
Above is an image by B.W. Wells (1884-1974), a naturalist who created hand-colored glass slides to aid in scientific presentations. NC State has a large archive of his work online.
One of the classic examples of scientific illustration are prints of birds by John James Audubon, like the one above found in his book Birds Of America. Below: a framed Audubon print adds interest to a paneled room.
Similar in aim to Audubon’s work and even more colorful, are illustrations like this one by E.A. Seguy. His book on Butterflies, Papillions, can be found in the NC State archives.
NC State’s website also features a series called “Inside Wood” featuring microscope images of wood fibers – these bold, textured images would look perfect as large-scale black and white prints.
Every year, Princeton University hosts a contest for the best “Art of Science.” Here’s last year’s winner, a photo of a Plasma Accelerator:
Scientific images are a source for artwork that can be refreshing and beautiful. Can you see it on your walls?