Though cameras are machines, some postmodern photographers introduce artisanal techniques into their images. Three such photogs have mounted a joint exhibit of deeply personal work at Dina Mitrani Gallery in Wynwood. Titled "Handmade and Heartfelt," the show includes images that come with rich backstories and are printed on everything you can imagine — from old letters and tin boxes to feather quills. Moving narratives and found objects complement the images.
"My practice feeds my shopping addiction," jokes Heidi Kirkpatrick, 57, from Portland, Oregon. She got her start in the art world making pieces that addressed women's issues. These days, the pack rat spends most of her time in her studio amid towers of trinkets she collects. Through a meticulous process, she develops images on her treasures. Though the parings might seem odd, they're the product of hours spent toiling with her materials. "It's more about living with and studying the objects than anything else," she says.
The artist prints on children's toy blocks, books, mahjong tiles, ashtrays, and other objects. In the past 15 years, her work has been collected by museums and cultural institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Harry Ransom Center in Texas, the Springfield Museum of Art in Ohio, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in Louisiana, and the OHSU Corporate Collection in Oregon.
Photographer Rachel Phillip prints her images on 19th-century photographs. The pieces are a sort of ode to the early era of the medium. "I was the weird kid who loved antiquing with their grandmother," Phillips confesses. "After printing on found materials, normal paper wasn't interesting anymore."
The narratives weaved through her work reflect countless hours of study and reflection, a far cry from the often mechanical process of digital photography. In her "Blue Waves" exhibition, for example, Phillips constructed tiny paper house models, snapped photos of them, and printed the images on her grandparents' old love letters. That personal touch transforms the work into something else altogether.
A San Francisco Bay-area resident, Phillips, 33, spends her time out of the studio in a eight-by-15-foot office built on a flatbed truck, where she teaches dyslexic and homeschooled children.
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The third photographer in the exhibition, K.K. DePaul, 67, began her fine-art career at the age of 55. Her images follow personal stories — both real and imagined — ripped straight from her childhood. Her father is the protagonist of most of the narratives, and each piece comes with a pathos-laden anecdote that illustrates its significance. She starts her process by writing the details of her stories and then reflecting on her notes. She lets the images slowly bubble to the surface of her consciousness.
"I should have started my photography career before 55 but didn't know how to start telling my story when I was younger," the Lancaster, Pennsylvania native says.
The joint show represents a major shift in the art world. Photographs are no longer cold, stylized depictions of real life; they're warm and augmentable. The images reflect stories and emotions. To grasp the full picture is to view it through the eyes of the photographer.
"Handmade and Heartfelt"
Through May 14 at the Dina Mitrani Gallery in Wynwood. Hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 1 to 5 p.m. and Monday by appointment only.