PDN Photo of the Day

Joni Sternbach’s Sea, Salt, Sand and Sky

A new show presents work from four series by Joni Sternbach, which explore the overwhelming scale of the ocean, sky and desert. “VAST: Sea Salt Sand Sky,” on view at the Harn Museum of Art at the University of Florida in Gainesville, includes images from “Ocean Details,” “Sea/Sky,” “The Salt Effect”and Sternbach’s celebrated series, “Surfland,” in the form of cyanotypes, platinum/palladium prints, silver gelatin prints, pigment prints, one-of-a-kind tintypes and video.

In “Ocean Details,” Sternbach makes tightly cropped views of the surface of the ocean, creating “a surface, a skin, a blank screen on which I can project an array of emotions,” she writes in a statement, using hand-applied emulsion to “bring these photographs closer to the realm of drawing.” In “Sea/Sky,” a low horizon of water frames a portrait of clouds and mist. In the series, “I became interested in reducing all of the natural elements to a mystery of formal abstraction,” writes Sternbach. “The Salt Effect” documents a harsh region in northwest Utah where the transcontinental railroad was completed, and where the crew of the Enola Gay was stationed before their mission to Hiroshima. Using several photographic processes, Sternbach recorded places where these events still mark the landscape. “Surfland,” a collection of tintype portraits of surfers, was made in Australia, Uruguay, England, France and the U.S., on the East Coast and in California. Working with a large format camera and processing her plates onsite, the project is partially “a piece of performance,” writes Sternbach. It explores “the juncture between land and sea,” and surfers place as “an integral part of this liminal state.”

Says Carol McCusker, Harn Curator of Photography and curator of the exhibition, “The word ‘vast’ references the subject and scale of Sternbach’s prints, and the reverie she finds there. Her expansive vistas mark the passage of time and change while providing awesome moments capturing the earth’s beauty, power and fragility.”

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