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From Esteeming the Pearls exhibition catalogue:

 


The Alchemy of Photography

Russell Lord, The New Orleans Museum of Art - excerpts from essay The Alchemy of Photography, Passage, Radius Books

Photography is everywhere. It slips in and out of our field of vision as we walk through the streets, and it shifts from one handheld screen to another seamlessly. It is in our pockets, accessible at a moment’s notice to capture something, anything in the world, probably while some other device captures us with or without our consent. It has become an instantaneous, ubiquitous, easy, and impersonal phenomenon, so much so that it is difficult to think of photography as something that is more mystery than fact, more craft than technology, and more alchemy than science. And yet those alternate terms—alchemy, mystery, craft—defined the origins of photography, a period in which success was the result of both diligence and accident, and the sudden appearance of the world on surfaces surprised and even terrified those who witnessed it. Over the past two centuries, photography has infiltrated every aspect of modern life, but with this conquest has come disillusionment. Suspicion and wonder have been traded in for an unwavering trust in the photograph and the processes of photography have been explained—perhaps too much. It is no longer something to be feared, it is commonplace. This is not true of all photography or photographers, of course. Thankfully, there are artists like Linda Foard Roberts, a photographic alchemist for the modern world whose work still holds true to the spirit of photography’s origins in its attention to craft, its acceptance of accident, and its interest in the ineffable phenomena of life.

In many of her works, we are left to question if what we see is coming or going, materializing or dissipating. This interest in the question of existence is central, and makes Roberts a true Romantic, in the historical conception of the term. There was once an architect in the Romantic era, who when asked to submit a design for a building, presented two drawings—one of the building as it would appear when finished, and one as it would appear after time had had its way, crumbled, overgrown, and in the final stages of its existence. The architect did not intend this exercise as a bleak comment on the inevitability of death, but rather as a demonstration of how the building would make a beautiful ruin. Like the architect, Roberts is interested in the effects of time, unlike the architect, she does not seek to glorify the ruinous state of things, but rather to reconcile her—and our—own feelings about what exists today and how it might change tomorrow. It is this longer view, and our acceptance of it that can make for a more fulfilling present. This is the message that Roberts the Romantic, the alchemist, gives us, conjuring images of a fleeting world, elegiac records of the present moment, but informed by the past, and hinting at future that is inevitable but also rich with possibility.

Russell Lord, The New Orleans Museum of Art - excerpts from The Alchemy of Photography, Passage, Radius Books

A Measure of Time 

Deborah Willis, Ph.D. New York University, Excerpts from essay A Measure of Time, Passage, Radius Books, 2016.

All that you touch You Change.

All that you Change Changes you.

The only lasting truth Is Change.1

Octavia Butler

Linda Foard Roberts’ speaks… in fleeting revelations… Her imagery emerges from the fertile southern soil, in the generations of her family and nature, where growth and change are the only constants.2

Crista Cammaroto

I believe the past and the future reside in all of us… How much do we bring forward with us?3

Linda Foard Roberts

I met Linda Foard Roberts in the mid-1990s at the Light Factory Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was immediately drawn to her large-scale imagery and use of old lenses (replaced soft focus) that teal together a narrative of intergenerational memory and longing. Roberts and I bonded during my time in Charlotte and she graciously invited me to her home -- the landscape in which she stages family memories in Passage. This five-part photographic essay spans over a decade.

Roberts’ images explore loss and futurity in time and place, grounded in her upbringing in North Carolina. A constant in her work is home and family in conversation with nature. Therein she captures lyrical and often fragmented glimpses of a parent, child, or spouse, and juxtaposes living subjects with memory laden objects--a seemingly ancient book, an old leather suitcase, a doll with toy guns and planes encased in an open box.

Her love of photography began at the age of fifteen, when she took a class at Myers Park High School with Byron Baldwin, then an influential local photographer and sought after instructor. Roberts finds inspiration in the “long history” of photographing one’s family and life in the works of well-known artists from Edward Weston to Sally Mann. She infuses her images with poetry and the arrangements of these large scale works lead viewers on a narrative journey. Loneliness, loss, and isolation loom in many frames, yet are positioned alongside images of hope, regeneration, and the continuum of life.

1  Octavia E. Butler. Parable of the Sower. New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012. Internet resource. 2 Crista Cammaroto, Curator. Esteeming the Pearls: Luis Gonzalez Palma & Linda Foard Roberts. The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, 2007. Exhibition catalogue.

Deborah Willis, Ph.D. New York University, Excerpts from A Measure of Time, Passage, Radius Books, 2016.

 

Crista Cammaroto - Crista Cammaroto, Curator. Esteeming the Pearls: Luis Gonzalez Palma & Linda Foard Roberts. The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, 2007. Exhibition catalogue.

We have fleeting moments in life when truth speaks to us without words, but in imagery.
Art gives us those moments when words are insufficient and imagery alone brings  understanding. From this place of luminance, the works of photographers Luis González Palma and Linda Foard Roberts transcend language.

Luis González Palma, born from the magical soil of Guatemala, is one of Latin America’s most significant contemporary photographers. He is known as an earnest keeper of the Mayan soul through his portraits of the indigenous Guatemalan people. His portraits are silver images laden with gold leaf and asphaltum (a dark tar like substance used as a masking device in printmaking) giving each photograph an extraordinary luminescent quality. The Loin Cloths, Palma’s newest works, are fabricated by the artist and hang weightlessly over an empty and dark space. The cloth, although constructed and staged, is reminiscent of the cloth worn by Jésus Cristo. These images offer the viewer much more than the cross, or a man with a crown of thorns: their rare beauty lifts these iconic images beyond the weight of religious dogma. Instead these images give reference to an ancient struggle still alive today: universal sacrifice and resurrection. The stains and wrinkles remind the viewer of the ancient Latino world – strongly reminiscent of its pagan roots – the Mayans, the earth, and the sacrifice of one people by another.

Like Palma, Linda Foard Roberts speaks less of dogmatic and specific absolutes but rather in fleeting revelations. Using only minimal iconography as directional signposts, her images pull from deeper pools of the subconscious. Roberts floats the images up to a surface where meaning is in constant flux, the freshness of youth transforming into age, and birth that one day becomes loss. Here we have symbols of polarities, hanging like a string of pearls, with the esteemed moments of life between them. Her imagery emerges from the fertile southern soil, in the generations of her family and nature, where growth and change are the only constants.

Both artists string together images that create that momentary experience, the temporal symbols that create our lives. The fire, the haunt, the revelations, and the “pearls” of life are presented here as gifts, but also temporal gifts, lasting only for a moment before they slip through your hand.

– Crista Cammaroto, Former Artistic Director, The Light Factory

Crista Cammaroto, Curator. Esteeming the Pearls: Luis Gonzalez Palma & Linda Foard Roberts. The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, 2007. Exhibition catalogue.