If curiosity killed the cat, then where does that leave an artist? Photographer Caroline Kapp attempts to solve this riddle with her latest installment, entitled Reverse Logic, currently on display at the newly renovated Edward Reed Arts Center (formerly Jem Studios) in the bohemian neighborhood of Georgetown.
Talking to this graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, and a recent recipient of a King Country Arts grant, about her work feels more like interacting with a mad scientist just on the brink of a discovery rather than the average up-and-coming artist. Kapp likes to concentrate on the experimental side of the photographic medium, consistently challenging herself as well as those who view her work.
"I am very interested in the ways viewers trust a photograph and I am very curious about the ways in which I can alter them," she confides. She also claims to be the least scientific person she knows. "I was always the one who didn't like to measure the temperature of the chemicals in the water. The [photographic] medium is very precise and scientific, and that is the part I am least interested in, yet I would still say I am very experimental."
At first sight it is difficult to discern whether the prints hanging on the gallery wall are paintings, etchings, screen prints or, yes, even photographs.
"They are all based on a photographic process. Black-and white photography is the jumping-off point for the inspiration of my ideas," Kapp explains as she shows me a series of prints entitled "Graffiti, Cover-up and Droppings".
Kapp went around to various places in Seattle and San Francisco, taking up-close and personal black-and-white shots of bird droppings on sidewalks and of the paint used to disguise graffiti on urban walls. She then took the actual photographs, scanned them though her computer and utilized the wonders of Photoshop in order to tweak the color of the organic shapes and forms found in the original work. She digitally printed them on canvas, which is another way she tricks her viewers. The result is a vibrant succession of map-like designs reminiscent of the work of abstract painter Juan Miro.
The colors she chooses are both bold and complementary, giving the viewer a different and kinder perspective of the subject. What is actually a photograph of paint over graffiti now looks like a cosmic city, and, in another, the bird droppings start to resemble a mythical dragon.
"I like taking something that is urban and everyday-even ugly and annoying-and turning it into something beautiful," says Kapp.
In a different series, Kapp utilizes the old photographic technique of cyanotype, which is a solution, containing the blue hue (cyan) and requires only water and sunlight in order to process it. In "Drips," Kapp poured the solution onto photographic paper and let it drip in several different directions over the course of a day. The chore for the viewer is to solve the puzzle by figuring out which way the solution is dripping.
In "Gum," Kapp coated paper with cyanotype, took a negative of an image of gum on a sidewalk, and exposed it on the paper for an hour in the sun. The result is an unusual image of blue nebulous blotches that jump out at you. The simplicity of this process creates an austerity that is only enhanced with the different shades of blue.
Kapp also enjoys a good optical challenge. In Strings she has taken pictures of a string hanging in the sunlight. You can see there is a shadow of the string in tact, yet she has digitally broken up the string into several parts, so that it is no longer unified and as a result becomes a bit confusing to the naked eye.
And in perhaps her most successful print, "Wrinkled Canvas," Kapp took an image of crumpled canvas, coated some stretched canvas with heated up photographic solution, and exposed the negative of the winkled canvas onto the stretched canvas. The stretched canvas becomes the ultimate illusion because at first glance it actually looks like you are staring at crumpled canvas when in reality it's as smooth and taut as a freshly made soldier's bunk.
While most of her work is unconventional as far as photographs go, Kapp does have one or two semi straightforward shots-though they do have a twist to them. In "Melting Ice," she took a piece of ice, placed it on photographic paper, and exposed it with her enlarger several times over the course of an hour. The sequential order of watching the ice melt is both intriguing and ethereal.
The image itself of the ice has a prismatic quality to it, and if you look closely, into the ice itself, you can see images that resemble everything from the sky to a fire burning in the forest. It's a remarkable piece and probably one of my favorites in this show that challenges the photographic process. Reverse Logic, in essence, blurs the lines of this very traditional medium and forces the viewer to look at everyday images in a new way.
Reverse Logic runs through Aug. 28 at the Walter Reed Arts Center, 6012 12th Ave. South in Georgetown. Tuesday-Sunday 12-6 p.m. Call 763.5830 for more information.[[In-content Ad]]