PDN Photo of the Day

Imagining the World by Starlight

Even on the darkest night, stars have never shone as brightly as they do in Vanessa Marsh’s series “Everywhere All at Once.” On view in a show opening today and running until October 30 at Foley Gallery in New York City, Marsh’s images don’t depict any particular sky or any particular place. Instead, Marsh pulls from memory and imagination, picturing pine and palm trees, billboards and telephone wires, silhouetting these prosaic shapes against the night sky in a process that combines drawing with photograms.

To make the images, Marsh draws on acetate, which she inverts or layers in the darkroom to make photograms, in a sort of complex variation on cliché verre. As she said in a recent interview, despite work in other media, she continues to be drawn to photographic processes. “No matter how much I might be interested in other ways of working, that fascination and obsession with (excuse the cliché) the magic of photography–the way light hits paper, and the translation that happens when I lay a drawing down and then expose the paper to light through the drawing–is very exciting for me.”

The starry sky has been a recurring theme for Marsh, whose fictional images have combined drawing, painting and scale models with darkroom work. Working in a square format, the landscapes in “Everywhere All at Once” are less elaborate, often implied by just a horizon line or the outline of shapes from modern life—bunting that might hang above a used car lot, pylons on a distant hill. By picturing stars, Marsh says in a statement about the show, her images offer an alternative to the mundane infrastructure that fills the frame. “Looking out over the landscape the night sky provides a reminder of the smallness of our existence and also the vast possibilities inherent to our experience. It provides a connection between distant individuals, a jumping off point for belief systems and mythos, and an interstellar reference that helps us to navigate our own world. For me, more than anything, it provides a sense of space and infinity that is at once the essence of openness and possibility and also terrifyingly complex and unfathomable.”

Related Stories:
Manufacturing the Milky Way
Galaxies Not So Far Away
From Personal Work to Paid Assignments: How Tobias Hutzler’s Light Drawing Experiments Led to Commercial Jobs (For PDN subscribers; Log in required)

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