Photographers Capture Passage of Time in Natural World in William Paterson University Galleries Exhibition

Four photographers utilize scientific research, conduct experimental studies, or embark on expeditions to capture the passage of time through changing landscapes, organic life cycles, or celestial activity in Traces of Time: Photographic Explorations of the Natural World, an exhibition on view in the William Paterson University Galleries on the institution’s campus in Wayne. The exhibition is on view from January 25 through March 25, 2016. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on January 31, February 21, and February 28 from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Sunday, January 31 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Curated by University Galleries manager Emily Johnsen, the exhibition features works by four photographers—Caleb Charland, Sharon Harper, Christina Seely, and Rachel Sussman—who use a variety of techniques to explore their diverse interests.

Prompted by his insatiable curiosity and the desire to measure the world around him, Charland conducts numerous scientific experiments that are best captured by the photographic process. His discovery that bacteria growing on the surface of film left markings of its presence led Charland to use film with solid fields of color as his Petri dishes. The bacterial growth patterns would eat through the gelatin emulsion of the film and transfer color particles as it spread, leaving a biograph, or a trace of life. Once the bacterial growth had depleted its resources, the life cycle was considered complete and Charland would scan the final design depicting individual life-scapes, resulting in his “BioGraphs” series.

Harper creates multiple-exposure photographs as part of her “Moon Studies and Star Scratches” series, in which the camera maps the relationship between the movement of Earth and the photographer. While the camera might be seen as the pervasive presence of technology, which often disrupts one’s experience of the natural world, here the camera creates possibilities for reinterpreting contemporary experience as it mediates and records, generating images that cannot be seen without it. These images are an attempt to record a realm humans can hardly fathom, but within a framework of time they can readily understand, bringing the human scale into relationship with the cosmic.

Seely’s expedition-based work focuses on the act of bearing witness in the far reaches of the planet. Embedded in her photographs and videos is the dialectic between surface documentation of representative media and the complex reality that lies below the surface—for example, how the image of a beautiful arctic landscape often obscures the darker, more complicated truth of global climate change. The works on view from her “Markers of Time” series reflect on the delicacy of relationship of people to the planet’s greater natural systems. Tying the viewer as individual to the global, her work generates an essential dialogue in a climate of growing uncertainty about our future relationship to the planet.

For her series “The Oldest Living Things in the World,” Sussman consulted biologists, scoured scientific journals, and set out on fieldwork expeditions to photograph continuously living organisms 2,000 years old and older on all seven continents. Inspired by the concept of deep time, Sussman sought to create a time capsule, constructed across disciplines, to put into perspective the human lifespan. While she has explored and recorded the world much like a scientist would, the series is at its heart a conceptual art project that stresses the importance of environmental conservation.

Charland has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, notably at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin (2015; Sasha Wolf Gallery, New York (2014); the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (2013); ClampArt, New York (2012), deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts (2012), and Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2007). Awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant for 2016, he has held residencies at the Imagine Science Film Festival, New York (2011) and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (2009). His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the Portland Art Museum, Oregon; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania. A resident of Brewer, Maine, he holds a BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Harper is a 2013 recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in Photography. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Texas; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, among others. She has received and attended numerous artist residency fellowships which include Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, New York; The MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire; Headlands Center for the Arts, Sausalito, California; and the Leighton Artists’ Colony at the Banff Centre, Canada. A professor of visual and environmental studies at Harvard University, she is a graduate of Middlebury College and holds an MFA in photography and related media from the School of Visual Arts.

Seely, who will be a 2016 artist-in-residence for Light Work in Syracuse, New York, has been an artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts (2011), a fellow at The MacDowell Colony (2009), a participant in the Arctic Circle Program, International Territory of Svalbard (2010); and a recipient of a year-long public arts commission from the city of San Francisco (2010). Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is featured in many public and private collections including The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Illinois; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the Yale University Collection, New Haven, Connecticut. A graduate of Carleton College, she holds an MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. She is an assistant professor of studio art at Dartmouth College.

Sussman has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography (2014); a LACMA Lab Art + Tech grant (2014); a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Photography (2013); and a residency at The MacDowell Colony (2013), among others. She has also been selected as an artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute for 2016. Her work has been exhibited at the NYU Gallatin Galleries, New York (2015); Pioneer Works, Red Hook, New York (2014); the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, IL (2011); and the American Museum of Natural History, New York (2008). A resident of Brooklyn, she holds a BFA in photography from the School of the Visual Arts, New York and an MFA from Bard College.

The exhibition is one of two on view concurrently in the University Galleries. The Court Gallery features Tai Hwa Goh: Ebb and Flow. Incorporating traditional printmaking techniques with hand-waxing, this site-specific installation by the New Jersey-based artist Tai Hwa Goh explores landscapes and biological forms.

This exhibition is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. The William Paterson University Galleries are wheelchair-accessible.  Large-print handouts are available. For accessible parking or other additional information, please call the Galleries at William Paterson University at 973-720-2654.

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