Please join us in welcoming to Paper Circle our featured artist of the month Julie Blankenship
Julie Blankenship Artists Statement
I make collages and paintings with found cabinet cards and cartes de visite—small, black and white, 19th century photographs. The paper and gelatin silver surfaces of the photographs themselves are seductive and wildly varied—some are thick and glossy, others thin and worn, stained or damaged. I make alterations by hand, directly on the surfaces of the original photographs, using ink, dust, and glue.
These mixed media works respond to the ways in which, throughout the industrial revolution, photography first began to be employed in the construction of identity. The United States, an agricultural economy fueled by slave labor, underwent a painful transformation, reinventing itself as a consumer culture in an increasingly industrialized environment. While income disparity increased, standards of living improved for some. Studio portraits embodied people’s class aspirations, portraying them in the ways they wanted to see themselves and have others see them.
Originally, these photographs encouraged a feeling of connection to distant people, places and times. I interrupt these (now unknown) narratives—recycling and altering the photographs to create new meanings, responding to both the content of the materials, and to the physical objects themselves by working the surfaces with collage, printing and painting—drawing, soaking, tearing, cutting, layering, and burnishing. I deconstruct and reassemble flotsam and jetsam from the industrial revolution into works whose beauty arises out of processes that nearly destroy them, alluding to metamorphoses, dark histories and gothic struggles.