While COVID-19 has upended the daily lives of people around the world, it has also fueled creativity and innovation. This exhibit features the work of seven artists who have embraced change during these trying times.
First Light: An Exploration in Kitchen Photography During the Pandemic
Robin Assner-Alvey, Madeline Brenner, Krista Frohling, Betsy Morris, Erica Popp, Sharon Tyhurst and Matthew Weber.
The exhibit was on display at STLCC-Wildwood, Nov. 2 - Dec. 11, 2020.
A Statement from Matthew Weber, Curator and Artist
The pandemic has changed all of our lives in profound ways and has forced many artists to alter their process and find new ways of making art during this time. Without access to a digital studio and darkroom, a number of photographers began to shift to alternative analog methods of constructing images. Some of the earliest pioneering photographic processes required the least complicated equipment, and with some creativity and persistence, many of these processes can be accomplished at home in your kitchen.
These processes, like the Cyanotype and Anthotype, create light sensitive images without the use of sophisticated modern photographic equipment and the artists in this show have applied a variety of methods to produce this work including printing on fabric, using constructed negatives, and even incorporating plant, vegetable and fruit pulp to construct light sensitive emulsions which coat their paper with a variety of colors.
This exhibition is an example of the creativity of human beings under adversity, our ability to find joy and fulfillment in the materials and processes that surround us on a day-to-day basis, and our goal of producing meaningful work even during this trying time.
Meet the Artists
Robin Assner-Alvey is a practicing artist working with photography, video and installation. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Connecticut in 2000 and her Master of Fine Arts from the Ohio State University in 2002. Her work examines corporality and asks viewers to consider the experience of living in their own skin.
Currently, she is investigating the effects of giving birth as well as various facets of motherhood and the toll it has on the body. Her most recent solo exhibition was Embodied at the Bruce Gallery at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in January 2019.
She is also a professor of art in the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Art at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. She is in her 18th year at Webster, where she teaches all levels of photography and video. She loves experimenting with photography and pushing her students to investigate the limitless photographic possibilities. Her art has been exhibited in various solo and group shows throughout the United States.
Madeline Brenner is an emerging artist and art therapist born in St. Louis, Missouri. She received her MA in Art Therapy from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in 2015, and BA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Photography from Webster University in 2012. She works primarily with the photographic medium, and utilizes her experience as an art therapist to inform her work.
Her first passion has always been art, initiating in the wooded backyard explorations of her childhood, and formally beginning in her high school darkroom. She began to pursue art as a form of expression and connection, aligning her academic career with her two main interests; art and psychology. The power and potential of art as both a healing tool for emotional and mental understanding, as well as its ability to bring together communities. Bilingual in Spanish, she focused her early career working with the immigrant community in the Metro East St. Louis area, she developed and implemented culturally informed therapeutic programming and advocated for the accessibility of services to this community.
She has continued to develop her clinical skills in trauma, working with survivors of relationship and domestic violence. In the complex treatment options, she has learned that trauma is often stored within the body, and that words alone are not sufficient to process these violations to self and safety that may have occurred. It is through this professional development that she has cultivated a trauma informed approach to her art creation, where the final product is but one component. She intentionally nurtures an experience when planning, executing, and displaying the works which heavily value the model: their consent, emotional vulnerability, as well as personal history.
From the moments of pause and stifling congestion to uncontrolled forward progression, Krista Frohling’s work explores a variety of different stages and motions through life with momentary pauses of reflection.
She was attracted to the cyanotype process because of its unique monochromatic color palette and historical legacy. Although she had purchased a series of glass plate negatives she wanted to document, preserve and create prints from, she was drawn to explore the shapes and texture of items that were more personal.
Her “Grandma’s Lace” series was created after inheriting a basket of lace and fabric from her grandmother’s house after she passed. During her exploration of cyanotypes, she was drawn to document the items in her garden. Her garden is an escape and labor of love. Combining her dueling labors of gardening and photography was a natural transition.
Betsy Morris is a professor and the Fine Arts Program Coordinator in the Department of Design, Visual and Performing Arts at STLCC-Meramec, where she teaches drawing and foundations design. Her current work explores botanical imagery, using direct exposure cyanotype processes.
She has exhibited work regionally and nationally, including solo and two person exhibits at the Pennsylvania School of Art and Design, Lancaster, PA; Sheldon Swope Art Museum, Terre Haute, IN; and University of Missouri, Columbia, MO. ;Morris has curated numerous exhibits for the Meramec Gallery of Contemporary Art, including “Drawing Forward: Process and Vision” (2018); “Exploring and Expanding: A Fiber Invitational” (2015); and “Voices in Encaustic” (2011).
Morris is a 2020 recipient of the John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award, League for Innovation in the Community College, for excellence in community college teaching and leadership.
Erica Popp is an artist, educator and curator in St. Louis, Missouri. Her artwork is primarily ceramics and photography, especially alternative photographic processes. Her work explores urban and rural landscapes, family history and the idea of the American Dream. Her work has been shown nationally in solo and group exhibitions and reproduced by Urban Outfitters and Art Crate. Popp has juried and curated exhibitions regionally and nationally.
She has taught photography and developmental writing both full and part-time at the college level, as well as summer art camps for children ages 4-14. She is currently the full-time visual art teacher at Incarnate Word Academy in North St. Louis County and is also an adjunct professor of art at St. Louis Community College at Meramec and Webster University.
Popp was the owner and co-curator of Erica Popp Studios + Gallery, a gallery dedicated to supporting artists who are young in their careers through exhibitions, workshops, mentorship, and professional services. She holds an MFA in Fine Arts from Fontbonne University in St. Louis, where she focused her studies on photography and ceramics.
Sharon Tyhurst is a retired preschool and elementary teacher who decided to take just one college level photography class. One class led to another and four years later she is still enjoying being a student.
When not using the college’s darkroom she can be found photographing interesting old buildings or rural Missouri’s beauty.
Matthew Weber was born in St. Louis, Missouri and received his B.F.A. in Photography from the University of Missouri – St. Louis in 2011. He then went on to receive an M.A. in 2013 and an M.F.A. in 2014 from the University Iowa - Iowa City in Photography.
Weber works at St. Charles Community College, St. Louis Community College and Webster University as an adjunct professor in Art and Photography. He lives in St. Louis with his wife Melissa and their daughters Cecelia and Harper.
His visual work primarily explores architecture and industrial locations at night. His emphasis on large format film capture, digital scanning and digital output for large scale printing make him a knowledgeable source of both analogue and digital photographic processes.
His academic career centers on the fundamentals of the photographic process, but also delves into historic and analytic curricula in photography such as contemporary trends, field photography, color photography, and more. Weber rounds out his academic career by teaching art appreciation and art history courses.
His current work focuses on an historic pioneering photographic process called Anthotypes, which creates colorful light-sensitive emulsions from plants, fruits, flowers and other organic materials.