In my work, I focus on the place where photography and memory collide. Isca Greenfield-Sanders is obsessed with the connection between memory and painting. “The integrity of memory is diminished the more you recall it. As you think about something over and over, you infuse it with details that did not exist.” Greenfield-Sanders buys hundreds of thousands of slides from 1950’s and 1960’s on ebay. Some of these slides have names of the individuals hand-written on the cardboard frames. According to Greenfield-Sanders: All the slides from this era are the same: beach, celebrations, monuments, trips, vistas – stand-ins for memory. How many slides of the geyser at Yellowstone National Park have I seen? Why exteriors only? The Kodachrome film of this era could only expose the film in high light situations.
Greenfield-Sanders discussed in the detail the process she uses to create these final images.
“Isca uses a complex process to create her paintings. She starts by digitally scanning vintage slides, printing them out in various sizes on paper. She hand-coors the printouts with colored pencil and watercolors, dissolving the water-soluble images in places and flattening out or concealing details in others. The loss of details further distances the viewer from the scene, so that the images evoke a sense of nostalgia and fading memories. Then she rescans each altered drawing to use it as the underlying image for a painting, transforming the images yet again into another medium and scale.” Inventing Nostalgia – https://www.thebottcollection.com/my-stories/2018/12/17/inventing-nostalgia-isca-greenfield-sanders
As complicated as this process is, the images on the screen at her talk and the images in this blog do not reflect the layering of mediums resulting in the luminosity and magic of these paintings.
Greenfield-Sanders has an extensive archive of slides from this period. These represent family memories that have been discarded. Part of that archive includes aesthetic “mistakes.” The era of the snapshot was celebrated by Greenfield-Sanders for its photographic errors: double exposures, light leaks, cracks in the film. Why did these mistakes survive? Film cost money, the processing cost money and therefore, one was less likely to throw away these faults and fumbles. In the digital world these lapses are deliberately created by photoshop or instagram or some other app.
Greenfield-Sanders sees these photographs as data. “I have not traveled a lot. What I have done is travel via 35mm slides”. According to Greenfield-Sanders in the 1950’s approximately 2 million snapshots were taken, in 1960’s 4 million and in 2019 over billion photographs have been recorded and those are only the ones that are logged. Greenfield-Sanders is a painter. “Picasso, is known as one of the most prolific artists. He created 1,885 paintings in his lifetime”.
In an article about Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Adam Gopnik writes “The Kodachrome labs that her reservoir of old slides depends on closed for good in 2009. When we think of this, we realize that we, too, sit on an even larger reservoir of improvised imagery, there on our iPhones and other electronic devices. One day soon, these will be as “period” in feeling and finish as the old slides with which Greenfield-Sanders begins. Old images of the lost search for pleasure are always in need of salvage and – can we say it? – they can only be truly made sacred by the hand of art.”
How Photography Conditions Memory and Painting
Artists at the Institute
Wednesday, February 26, 2020
New York University, Institute of Fine Arts