Artist Statements

Scanography

I began using a scanner as a camera in 1997 while living at a Zen monastery and began this botanical series in  2001. Using the scanner as the camera, is a rediscovery of image making. It's reminiscent or mirrors, in both process and aesthetics, the historic images of those first photograms and cyanotypes. Compare it with William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1840 photogram of a Byron poem or the cyanotypes of Anna Atkins.

(see below)

 

This photographic process has grown in use over the past decade and a half and has been dubbed “scanography”. It’s most prevalent use is in the recording of botanical objects, which to me is not surprising.

 

For some primordial reason when a new image making process or technique is created we innocently throw nature onto its surface, as some kind of ongoing test. Perhaps looking to see if it can match our own perceptual abilities and/or move beyond it. Scanography, to my estimation has come the closest to fulfilling this goal.

 

To create these images, I use the digital flatbed scanner as a camera and treat the objects as if it were film. In some images (the white background) the object is backlit during the scanning process just as a sheet of film or a slide would be. What results is a translucent image of the object. Something similar to the  experience of viewing stain glass windows.

 

To articulate the detail, character, and topography of each individual subject, Rather than a still life or a photographic documentation, through this process, are transformed into portraits. In a sense it depicts their humanity.

CK 2012

 

Botanicals Series

Botanical Mind

"Spring is in the frozen branches, buried beneath three feet of snow."

Dogen Zenji, 13th Century

Many years ago I lived near a very large garden. I would see them all in their unique stages of life. They were always open, innocent and beautiful. These are portraits of beings whose life is brief and whose silence and perfection are wondrous.

CK 2004

Works on Paper 

Paper is an endangered medium. It is a technological tool, an essential partner in the evolution of civilization. It is the preeminent vehicle for personal expression, the dissemination of information, ideas, and thoughts, both personal and social. Now, almost all forms of personal expression can go from conception to archive without ever touching a material/physical surface. Works on Paper examines the intimacy and beauty of the hand or print mark (typewriter/printer), and the use of a medium, which in time, may pass into obscurity.

 

I began this series in 2004 with original documents - letters, postcards, small notes, musical scores, and found ephemera. As a photographer I am always concerned about paper(s) and its characteristics in printing. I was inspired to do this because of its fading use in many areas of my life.

 

Each paper artifact becomes the media itself. To create the images, I use the digital flatbed scanner as a camera and treat the paper as if it was film. It is backlit during the scanning process just as flim or a slide would be. What results is a translucent image of both sides of the paper. Similar to a paper negative or photogram (think of William Henry Fox Talbot’s 1840 photogram of a Byron poem), this photographic process  that has grown in use over the past decade and has been dubbed “scanography”.

 

Scanography:Using the scanner as the camera, is a rediscovery of image making. It's reminiscent or mirrors, in both process and aesthetics, the historic images of those first photograms and cyanotypes. Particularly in the use of botanical objects, which to me is not surprising.

 

For some primordial reason when a new image making process or technique is created we innocently throw nature onto its surface, as some kind of ongoing test. Perhaps looking to see if it can match our own perceptual abilities and/or move beyond it. Scanography, to my estimation has come the closest to fulfilling this goal.

 

To articulate the detail, character, and topography of each individual document, they are printed on archival cotton paper and at an exhibition size of roughly 40 x 50” and 20x24”. At this size the creases, rips, folds, and the marks of the hand-held object become visible. Rather than a still life or a photographic documentation, through this process, the found papers and letters are transformed into portraits. In a sense it depicts their humanity.

CK 2005

White Box 

 

Working in various capacities in art museums over the years, I experienced a side of institutional space that the public rarely sees. The techniques and processes of display are purposely made invisible to the public, heightening the aura of exclusivity that exists in the “white box” of the museum galleries.

In 2001 I began to ask museums for free access with my camera during exhibition changes, initiating a project that has now encompassed over fifteen museums, including Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Menil Collection and The Hammer Museum. These photographs reveal the complex relationship between art and the space in which it is presented, lifting a curtain on a provisional environment where institutional hierarchy is missing or turned upside down; where the division between art and the circumstances of its presentation is blurred; and where the installation processes themselves are aestheticized.

In the recent past a number of photographers have been drawn to the spaces that display art as subject matter, including Thomas Struth, Candida Höfer, Sherrie Levine and Louise Lawler. The work of these artists differs from my essay, however, in that the subject matter is either the sociology of the museum environment (Struth and Höfer) or institutional critique (Levine/Lawler). By making the viewer focus on the raw nature of the exhibition process, these photographs defuse the aura that surrounds the rarefied atmosphere of formal display, making us understand that art and the circumstances of its presentation are not mutually exclusive.

CK 2010

Remnants of Impermanence 

Asylum 

 

A photographic essay of abandoned 19th century psychiatric hospitals. There are new chain link fences that surround these old mental institutions. But these fences are not there to contain what once lived inside. They are there to protect these lost souls from what is outside.

Located high on a hill overlooking all of Middleton, Connecticut is Connecticut Valley Hospital, one of the first mental institutions constructed in the United States in 1886. The facilities buildings range in age from 40 to 130 years old. Some of the older buildings have been slated for renovation and others for demolition. I was invited to document these places before they were lost.

Before I started this project, I thought it would be a great adventure to explore these old and eerie abandoned mental hospitals. After I had spent several days photographing I began to feel that these places had a lot to teach me. When I am in these places I have learned to quiet my mind, my own idea of what this is, and as clearly and compassionately as possible see what these buildings have to say.

This project has opened my life to a topic that I assumed I understood - mental illness. My re-education lead me to feel and see the legacy of ignorance and presumption that caused further suffering for those seeking refuge from their already difficult lives. These places are a 130 year old statement of how the mentally ill were treated in the past and yet these spaces would not be unfamiliar to a patient today.

CK 1999

Lost and Found: Ellis Island 

 

A photographic essay on institutional islands around New York City. Have you ever had to go into a lost and found box searching for your lost item? First comes the sudden fear of it being lost. Next there is the frustration about the carelessness that brought you into this situation. Last, there is the anxious hope of perhaps finding it, and all along a deep understanding that it all depends upon the slight chance that someone was kind enough to take the time to return it. Imagine being that lost item, waiting to be found, to be cared for and used again.

These were some of the feelings that I felt as I explored Ellis Island back in 1993-94. I was fortunate enough to be able to explore Ellis under the guidance of National Park Ranger, Kevin Daily. Together we explored the restricted areas of the grounds outside of the museum that are located on the southern part of the island. We made our way room by room. In many of these I would find small personal items left behind. As I moved through the buildings my guide would inform me of the function of each item or perhaps a story that accompanied it.

It was painful to hear of the awful circumstances that tens of thousands of people went through to get into this country. Often people were just sent back or held in isolation wards if they were suspected of illness. People who died on the island often ended up in the Ellis operating theater to be dissected for NYU medical students. Sometimes, even young children ended up in these situations. There are many stories, and I suggest you go to the museum yourself and find your own.

Through these photographs I found some stories that had been lost and brought them out of the dark to where they can be remembered and appreciated. Some of them are painful to see but that is all we are doing is seeing. Imagine being the immigrants who experienced it.

CK 1994

Lights 

 

The depiction of light in photography has been it’s constant. With the introduction of digital imaging the definitions of traditional photography have blurred and transformed. This work questions the current issues of image process, print medium and the progressively confusing debate between real or “computer generated” images.

These images draw references from classic depictions of light through art history, from a carved sun on Egyptian temple to a Frederic Church sunset or Gerhard Richter’s Candle paintings. This work also makes references to the spectrum of popular mass media such as the contemporary films 2001: A space Odyssey and Close encounters of the Third Kind as well to the generic theatrical light show at a concert or public event.

Images depicting light(s) are often the vessel for many generations to fill with their own conscious and unconscious needs. They stir up several basic human emotions, often asking questions relating to an original source or beginning.

These computer-generated images of light sources ask the same questions but pointed toward the issues of what is photography depicting now in a Photoshop world. Is it real or computer generated- does it matter anymore and is the message of light still the same.

CK 2011

© 2018 by Chad Kleitsch.
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