Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz's avatar Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz

In 2013 I returned from an artists residency on a tall sailing ship in the Arctic Circle with over 2,000 digital photographs. Though my photographs did a good job of capturing the landscape of the Arctic—a place of extraordinary beauty, isolation and color—I knew they would not be enough for me. I am a painter, and I crave the rich evocative surface of paint. It took me almost two years of trial and error to discover a method whereby I could bridge the gap between painting and photography, a method in which I could retain the detailed information and authenticity of my photographs but simultaneously create objects that would breathe as tactile images and speak in the intimate language of surface. First I choose and print the photograph I will build my piece on, then cast in plaster (Hydrocal) the three-dimensional surface I will be transferring the image to. The plaster contains the abrasions, depressions and formations that express my sense of meaning in that particular image. Using a chemical process, I transfer the gooey emulsion of archival inks that comprise the photograph onto the built surface. I repair the imperfections of the transferred image (and there are many!) and then begin to paint in earnest, using oil. This is just the beginning of my process. It usually takes me about a year and a half to make visual sense from this method of combining photography, relief, and paint. My purpose in going to such lengths is to create and intensify meaning. Each piece works as a metaphor to address the dissolution, disappearance, and demise of the Arctic's glaciers. The hybrid nature of my method—in which digital dots move seamlessly into brushstrokes across a flat, depressed, or protruding surface—also does its part to destabilize our experience of viewing: what are we looking at, painted stroke or digital pixel?

Entry Details
  • Art form: 2-D
  • Depth: 2.25 inches
  • Medium: Oil on transferred photo on Hydrocal
  • Width: variable
  • Year created: 1917
  • Height: variable