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IMAGE HEADER: Letha Wilson
Although Letha Wilson is firmly rooted in the field of photography, the final presentation of her images, alchemized and morphed on cement, metal and other surfaces, firmly plants her in the domain of sculpture. Her subject matter, landscapes and natural phenomena offer a new vantage point from which to experience the terrain of planet Earth in three-dimensional form. In this particular moment in time, her unique intersection of formal qualities, material exploration and an interest in the environment offers a point of inspiration for further contemplation of climate change and the preservation of natural resources. Read on to learn more about Letha’s work.
Steel Face Concrete Bend (Kauai Palm), 2018
Unique c-prints, concrete, emulsion transfer, steel frame 38 x 32 x 1 1/2 in
DUGGAL ART SCENE: Your material experimentation includes the merging of photographs and cement, notably, as well as steel, aluminum and vinyl, into mixed media sculptures. How did you land on this process?
LETHA: I became interested in the potential for a photograph to be a sculptural object during my MFA program at Hunter College, back in the early 2000s. Since then, I gradually began working with ways of pushing the form of the image using sculptural intervention, as a way of making the landscape photograph more real and more active. I went back to the color darkroom after school, and began an intensive exploration of the potential, specifically for C-prints, to be folded, cut, torn, and combined with wood, drywall and concrete. In recent years, I have taken advantage of the UV printing process to expand my process by printing on such substrates as aluminum, dibond, zinc and steel.
Bryce Canyon Lava Push, 2018
UV prints on corten steel, 132 x 51 x 60 in
DUGGAL ART SCENE: The images featured in your sculptures are photographs of the natural world taken while traveling. An interesting, open-ended conversation between urbanity and nature seems to unfold through your juxtaposition of materials and content. How do you view the relationship between the built environment and the vastness of landscapes in relationship to your work?
LETHA: My work attempts to balance the natural and constructed elements in a new and meaningful way, complex and layered. My interest in working with these materials and process is also that it will allow me to engage in a conversation about the landscape, our environment, and its history with more nuanced and complex possibilities. The material relationship between steel and concrete in tandem with the image of the landscape can evoke a fragile yet powerful balance between the control and chaos of these elements. I would like to consider a relationship to these natural spaces, what they can teach us, and how they should be protected. If my work causes someone to stop and look at a landscape photograph in a new way, perhaps this will allow them to further ponder their relationship to those real life spaces.
Artist’s Palette Shadows Concrete Bend , 2020
Unique C-print, concrete, UV print, aluminum frame 18 1⁄4” x 14 1⁄4” x 1 1⁄4”
DUGGAL ART SCENE: What is the role of formal qualities – color, form, texture, dimensionality – in your articulation of a landscape as sculpture or sculpture as landscape? Is abstraction a part of your process?
LETHA: Yes – the importance of color in my work is always there, sometimes more conscious and other times a more underlying component. Often, if a piece has several components, they are linked in a monochromatic field of color, but I also play off the variety available within that limitation. This also goes back to color photography; I enjoy the play in the darkroom between slight color shifts, and embrace the variables that a landscape image invites in terms of color variance. And texture is also a major consideration, I am quite interested in combining textures that are actually from both the natural world and our urban surroundings, and how these two co-mingle.
Headlands Beach Steel Pipe Bend, 2018
UV print on vinyl, steel pipe 58 x 42 x 16 in
DUGGAL ART SCENE: What are you working on now? Has the pandemic limited your ability to travel or altered your practice in any particular way?
LETHA: I’m just finishing a couple of long-term projects, including three new large-scale pieces permanently installed at a public school in Brooklyn as part of the Public Art in Public Schools program. I also have several new works in a group exhibition, “Vantage Points” at GRIMM Gallery in New York City. Working through the pandemic was a struggle at times, both emotionally and practically, as I didn’t have access to the color darkroom or other fabricators. However, it was beneficial to me to slow down, have more time to play and experiment, and pay attention to my surroundings here at home. That being said, I have sorely missed my travels out west and am eager to hit the road again when it is possible!
View Letha’s work in a four person show at GRIMM Gallery in NYC - Vantage Points through October 17th: www.grimmgallery.com/exhibitions/175-letha-wilson-sonia-almeida-heidi-norton-claudia-pena-vantage-points/
View a virtual tour of the group exhibition, New Visions: The Henie Onstad Triennial for Photography and New Media, featuring Letha’s work on view in Norway this past summer: https://hok.no/arrangementer/virtuell-omvisning-i-new-visions