PMA November 2008 : Page 30

Trends & Technology Mural innovations By Don Long Artist Holly Alderman discusses the art of transparent photography Holly Alderman is an artist. The fact we’re writing about her here might lead one to think her work is somehow related to photography, which is correct; but unlike a photo artist whose framed prints are the end product, for Alderman the image is just the beginning. Alderman creates murals and tapestries, among other things. What does that conjure up in consumers’ minds? Billboard-sized photos? By definition, a mural has a connection to a wall, but Alderman has not let that restrict her. Yes, some of her work has ended up on walls; however, other pieces give new meaning to the term “mural” as she explores the frontiers of image printing technology. Artistic roots While her life as a mural artist began in 1995, art has been part of her entire life. Both her grandfather and father were architects, as well as artists in their own rights. She studied design and the history of art at Harvard University and Dartmouth College. “I always intended to be an artist, but abandoned art entirely for two decades” while teaching; working in publishing; and then raising three children, the eldest of whom is now 27, Alderman notes. “I started again with a public mural on the main street of my home town of Belmont, Mass., in 1995, when I painted the pool pavilion as a neoclassical villa,” she explains. “The most important part of that project now is the excellent photo taken by a friend, since the photo is all that survives! That made me wonder if photography was perhaps even more important than the painting itself. I have come to believe that.” Three years ago, while at the National Holly Alderman at her studio in Jaffrey, N.H. Photo by Kim Allis. 30 PMA — November 2008 — www.pmai.org Academy Mural Fellowship in New \ York, N.Y., designing murals for a competition and using photos as models for painting, “I discovered the thrill of experimenting with transparent images in Photoshop, and made a leap to ‘cross the digital divide’ into layered images with photography. I decided the photographs I was using for research and planning – sort of like blueprints for an architect – were more beautiful and intriguing than anything I could paint as an interpretation. The layered photos were like windows to another world entirely.” Home base for Alderman is Jaffrey, N.H.,

Mural innovations

Don Long

Artist Holly Alderman discusses the art of transparent photography Holly Alderman is an artist. The fact we’re writing about her here might lead one to think her work is somehow related to photography, which is correct; but unlike a photo artist whose framed prints are the end product, for Alderman the image is just the beginning.<br /> <br /> Alderman creates murals and tapestries, among other things. What does that conjure up in consumers’ minds?<br /> <br /> Billboard-sized photos?<br /> <br /> By definition, a mural has a connection to a wall, but Alderman has not let that restrict her. Yes, some of her work has ended up on walls; however, other pieces give new meaning to the term “mural” as she explores the frontiers of image printing technology.<br /> <br /> Artistic roots While her life as a mural artist began in 1995, art has been part of her entire life. Both her grandfather and father were architects, as well as artists in their own rights. She studied design and the history of art at Harvard University and Dartmouth College.<br /> <br /> “I always intended to be an artist, but abandoned art entirely for two decades” while teaching; working in publishing; and then raising three children, the eldest of whom is now 27, Alderman notes.<br /> <br /> “I started again with a public mural on the main street of my home town of Belmont, Mass., in 1995, when I painted the pool pavilion as a neoclassical villa,” she explains. “The most important part of that project now is the excellent photo taken by a friend, since the photo is all that survives! That made me wonder if photography was perhaps even more important than the painting itself. I have come to believe that.” Three years ago, while at the National Academy Mural Fellowship in New \ York, N.Y., designing murals for a competition and using photos as models for painting, “I discovered the thrill of experimenting with transparent images in Photoshop, and made a leap to ‘cross the digital divide’ into layered images with photography. I decided the photographs I was using for research and planning – sort of like blueprints for an architect – were more beautiful and intriguing than anything I could paint as an interpretation. The layered photos were like windows to another world entirely.” Home base for Alderman is Jaffrey, N.H.<br /> On the south side of Mount Monadnock, a place she describes as “very rural, secluded, an Emersonian place.” Monadnock, she notes, “has been an inspiration for New England artists, poets, and writers for centuries. Emerson and Thoreau hiked nearby.” Studio work A small barn and her home are her studio, “with projects happening at different times in nearly every room. Yet, in a certain way, my entire photo studio is electronic and almost invisible … it could be considered just my camera and computer.” Alderman’s camera gear is certainly not esoteric. She uses either an 8-megapixel Canon PowerShot Pro 1 or a 6-megapixel Nikon Coolpix L11. She has also used a 5-megapixel Canon camera.<br /> <br /> Her large prints are made at Superior Giclee in Woburn, Mass., where she works closely with Daniel Saccardo, a master printmaker.<br /> <br /> “I created all the photo banners for the special exhibition at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site [in Cornish,<br /> <br /> N. H.], using my iMac in my living room through the winter and spring, right next to the wood stove. I made murals for the Junior League Decorators Show House on the ping-pong table in the living room, screens for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in the kitchen and hall, and murals for the Humane Society and other locations in the dining room.” She uses her own cameras, for the most part, to capture the images; but sometimes she needs a larger camera. She has turned to Todd May of Mays Photography, Rockland, Mass., for images of more than 300MB for digital murals or antique wallpaper reproductions.<br /> <br /> May uses a scan back by BetterLight, harnessed to a Toyo 4-by-5 view camera to deliver the higher-resolution images.<br /> <br /> Digital beginnings Alderman admits, for the first seven years of painting murals she used one-time-use cameras to record the finished work. Then a friend gave her a digital camera.<br /> <br /> The mural fellowship in New York “changed my life.” In the fellowship mural competition, the need to arrange many images into one composition led her to try Photoshop as a canvas. “But my imagination moved into the zone of photography during the process of planning to paint large, formal murals in the competition. It was almost an accident!” Instead of placing images beside each other on the computer screen, Alderman placed them in layers and looked through.<br /> <br /> “Something magical occurred. Without being part of a plan, what I saw was an Unexpected pleasure. Since then, I have practiced and experimented, and learned and invented more possibilities.” She says she had “the shock of the new, an epiphany – a new style appeared in the process of experimentation” and she’s been exploring possibilities in digital space ever since.<br /> <br /> “When I discovered what I could do with making overlays of two photos and three photos and more, and cropping and cutting, I was so fascinated, I decided to forgo the painting and try to invent new visions in photography,” she says.<br /> <br /> “I thought, why imitate visual insights and discoveries unique to photography in colored paint? Photography in layers is a new aesthetic, a new art form.” The computer screen gave Alderman a new way of seeing and imagining, “with infinite intersections and dimensions,” with the layering of images leading to “a new way of life.” The layered look Alderman says composing photos in layers can become very complex; so she needs to concentrate without interruption for many hours at a time, or sometimes every minute for days. “I adjust and experiment patiently until, in some way, I have forged or fused a new look, a vision.” She makes proofs, but eventually takes the digital file to a studio with large digital printing machines for large-scale production. She works with Saccardo of Superior Giclee to get her files onto such substrates as silk, satin, polyester, and Tyvek.<br /> <br /> Not everything Alderman does is large.<br /> <br /> She says she enjoyed making an ornament for the White House Christmas tree, with decoupage of transparent photos on silk, Garden murals Artist Holly Alderman produced 40 tapestries for display at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, N.H. These banners range in size from 16-by- 20 inches to 42-by-90 inches. Some were created on LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth, while others were created on 3P Inkjet Textiles Silk Crepe.<br /> <br /> The banners are on display outdoors from May through October.<br /> <br /> Dan Saccardo of Superior Giclee, Woburn, Mass., says LexJet Satin Cloth “prints just like paper.” Silk Crepe is lighter and drapes better; but the satin produces sharper, more detailed images, he notes. The silk is not designed for long-term outdoor use, so three coats of Premier Imaging Print Shield protective clearcoat were applied.<br /> <br /> The banners faced thunderstorms and months of exposure to the elements with limited damage.<br /> And photographs assembled on a golden globe.<br /> <br /> Alderman admits she learns by trying to make new products. An example is the mural that appeared at the June Garden Fair at the Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine. It also appeared at a major show in the United Kingdom in September and will appear next March at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show in New York City.<br /> <br /> “It’s a new look. It is all done with photography, but has obvious references to art history. It’s nifty. It’s sensational.<br /> <br /> It’s not easy to produce, but we have figured out how,” she explains. “It’s always a challenge to research the cutting edge – what I want to invent or just try is sometimes impossible.” Alderman explains she had planned to make transparent photo garden banners for Saint-Gaudens. She and the printer searched, but the right materials do not yet exist; so the banners were translucent instead. “They were beautiful, but in a different way.” She also obtained a lot of new information by meeting with Kevin Currier at EFI VUTEk in Meredith,<br /> <br /> N. H. She says they hope to work together on environmental art, using superwide printers. “He has the new materials and techniques, and … many superwide printers that will print photos on metal, 4-by-8 and larger plywood, plastic sheets, and more.” Fabric considerations Longevity is a major concern. Murals are meant to be permanent installations, she notes. “I have been interested in finding the best paints, pigment inks, papers, and fabrics possible.” For another project, a mural for garden shows, the choice of fabric was limited to fireproof materials. For the garden banners, the challenge was they would be outdoors in thunderstorms and bright sunshine for three seasons, May through October.<br /> <br /> “Only two weeks before the show opened, I received a call from LexJet; and we talked a long time about printing on new fabrics. I learned something that changed my plan from silk to satin. All the banners were on satin.” Alderman says she learned the satin cloth prints very much like enhanced matte paper and the satin lets light through, although you cannot see through the satin.<br /> <br /> She also learned the satin is water resistant, which means, for her practical application for the outdoor garden banners, the satin is sufficiently rainproof and waterproof to be perfect for landscape art. The colors would not run, even after seven thunderstorms. The silk, she notes, is much more translucent and transparent.<br /> <br /> A landscape can really be seen through the silk if it hangs in a window or outside; but the silk is neither waterproof nor water resistant, and definitely not strong enough to be outdoors for a week, much less six months.<br /> <br /> Alderman says her next project will be to “invent” cloth art tents, which she says will be called Printed Garden Pavilions, and the Fabric Foto Folly. The concept of a folly, in this case, dates back several centuries. It is not something ill-advised, but rather a building made solely for the purpose of decoration, fun, and being light-hearted.<br /> <br /> “I am not confined to a narrow definition of any tradition or purpose or requirement of art,” Alderman says.<br /> <br /> “I’ll consider any ideas. It’s fun to experiment.

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