This month, we welcome Sally Canzoneri as our December Artist of the Month. Sally's artistic journey includes embracing new interests and techniques as she moved from photography to book forms to lenticulars and more! Her dedication to hard work and doing more show the true progression of an artist extraordinaire. Thank you Sally for sharing your work and words with us!
I am leery of describing myself as a photographer, even though I take a lot of pictures and use those pictures in my art. I think a better description is to say I capture images using a digital camera and use those images to make pictures and other works on and of paper.
Some years ago, I was teaching creative writing classes for children when I read a book by Paul Johnson, a wonderful British book artist. That got me interested in using handmade books to encourage literacy; it also got me interested in book arts. I started making my own artist books and taking classes with some outstanding book artists. I'm particularly intrigued by sculptural book forms and ways to fold paper to make books.
Though I'd taken family photos for years, when I really got into photography, it was because I wanted imagery for my artist books. This partly explains why I'm not very knowledgeable about the technical aspects of photography. I'm using the camera to get interesting images that can be used in a variety of paper projects, not to get “great” photographs.
In 2013, I stumbled onto a way of making pictures that "don't look like photographs." It is a style that suits me, so I've stuck with it. We are in a time when the technology of photography has changed dramatically, along with judgements about photography as art. It gives artists new freedom and opportunities; but in some ways it makes it harder to narrow down the choices and develop a cohesive body of work. I think staying with a particular style, using a particular camera, has helped me do that.
Maine Ave Fish Market
When I started exhibiting my photos in 2013, I was showing 2D work. As I got into more exhibits and became more confident about my pictures, I wanted to do more things with them. I also wanted to do more than have work in group shows. The challenge of coming up with a solo show built around a theme appealed to me. By now, I've had several solo shows; that has really helped me grow as an artist.
My first solo shows, in 2015, happened because two wonderful gallery directors, Rachel Dickerson at New Communities Artspace and Nicky Cymrot at Hill Center, invited me to exhibit in their galleries. Both shows were meant to be visual portraits of places -- DC and Capitol Hill. Both were made up of flat photos (though one show did have an interactive piece). These shows were ones where I worked out the concept of the exhibit in discussion with the directors, who also taught me about how to put a show together.
The first time I got a solo show by putting in my own proposal was a Washington Project for the Arts Lobby Project show in early 2016. This was when I made my first lenticulars. The Lobby Project was a series of exhibits sponsored by the NoMa BID shown in the lobby of an office building.
My concept was of an exhibit about how neighborhoods change. I also wanted to get in how ideas of good urban renewal have changed between when the NoMa neighborhood was razed and rebuilt in the early 20th century and today. (I studied urban planning in grad school; you can see why I'd want to do this.) I'd never done a lenticular. But it seemed like a form that would fit my concept for the show. And I'd folded a lot of paper. So I wrote a proposal including lenticulars. And it got accepted.
About all I knew about lenticulars was what I'd read about them in a how-to project on a blog, which made them sound very easy to make. What I learned is that they are not so easy to make. I also learned the value of working with really good framers, who can help you figure out how to present odd things like lenticulars.
What happened was that people really responded to the lenticulars. When Gallery O on H put out a call for art on H St Then and Now, I proposed doing some lenticulars about H Street. That led my making two more pieces and, eventually, to my shows of lenticulars at Art League Gallery last January and the Hill Center now.
In addition to making lenticulars that pair historic and present day photos, I’ve also done pieces that use two of my own photos, like Milan Stair View Multi. Making the then-now pieces involves research and making decisions that is not purely about the visual elements of the images; sometimes it is refreshing to put that aside and just play with colors and shapes. I’ve also started to incorporate lenticular prints into artist books, as with Milan Stair View Multi Book.
Milan Stair View Multi
Milan Stair View Multi Book
I use a point-and-shoot camera that I carry everywhere and I take pictures all the time. The collection of images I have on my computer becomes source material that I mine for projects. Often the projects come months or years after the images were captured. In 2016, when I wanted to make a sculptural artist book for CHAL's Vertical show, I started playing with some pictures I'd taken in London in 2014. The result was Old Street Vertical.
Old Street Vertical
The week after the 2016 election, I needed to take Neil Gaimen's advice that when life seems bad, you should "make good art." I went back to those pictures from London and proposed Theme & Variations a show based on the idea of making a variety of pieces using a limited number of images. For that March 2017 show, I made mostly 3D pieces, including another artist book, Old Street Suite.
Old Street Suite
In the last few years, I met and gotten to know a lot of people in the DMV visual arts world. I’ve been impressed by how much they do to encourage artists and to educate the public about visual arts in the area. CHAW and CHAL are outstanding examples of this; and I feel fortunate to have been involved with them.
The Hill Center’s show of Sally’s lenticulars runs through January 6, 2019. A good time to see it is during CHAMPS Holiday Sip & Shop on December 10.
You can learn more about Sally at www.sallycanzoneri.com.