Patricia Sandler: Family Outcomes
I first was made aware of Patricia Sandler’s photographs when she won an award in an Photo Center North West. The work was a wonderful interpretation of personal histories, simple and complex at the same time. Patricia recently submitted to the Lenscratch self-portrait exhibition and it reminded me that I have been remiss in sharing her work. I am featuring two series, Family Outcomes and Signs of Life.
Patricia received a B.A. in photography from UCLA, where she had the opportunity to work extensively with Robert Heinecken. Following many years as a high school art teacher, she went on and earned an M.A. in Clinical Art Therapy from Loyola Marymount University, and has worked with special needs children, particularly those on the autism spectrum for many years. “As a photographer, she believes passionately in the notion of art as catalyst to stimulate the heart, the mind and the memory.” Patricia has exhibited in group exhibitions throughout the United States, and has pieces in the permanent collections of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Center for Photography at Woodstock permanent print collection, Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art/College Art Gallery at S.U.N.Y., New Paltz, New York.
Family Outcomes has maintained as its focus the subject of people in my life, whether immediate, extended or chosen family, and how they have affected me in continuing and evolving ways. The central theme of this work is the notion that we are tied to our family and friends whether by experience or memory, and that our being in relationship does not end because of some arbitrary separation, be it distance, choice or death.
These images are about the discrepancy that often exists between what we see and therefore assume, and what is objectively true. What we cannot know when a child’s life is captured on film is of course where their life will take them. We witness them frozen in time, in a moment that ceased to be as soon as it was recorded. What I have chosen to do is to juxtapose this past and this future into one image, as if to consolidate the totality of life rather then its different passages. In this process, I also record my relationship and affection with the subject and how their life has in one way or another intersected with mine.
Signs of Life
From my early days in art school, I have been immensely drawn to Stieglitz’s theory of equivalents. I was much younger then, and I’m not sure I even knew why this resonated so deeply in me. But for better or for worse, I have always been someone drawn to feeling, and to emotional experience. With Signs of Life, I am trying to tell stories about the experience of living life with its fantasies, dreams, mysteries, challenges and journeys.
My subject matter very often focuses on the aspects and artifacts of childhood because it is the foundation upon which we all emerge, and is so much more varied and dimensional then is sometimes portrayed in this culture. I am interested in the mystery that surrounds us, and the moments of grace that occur when we least expect it. I recognize and welcome that people who view this work will construct their own meaning and tales as well.
As Minor White described one aspect of Equivalents, it is that the image functions both as an objective representation of something that was photographed, as well as a spontaneous symbol that arises in the viewer at the moment of observation and touches something inside of them in a corresponding way. In creating the work in Signs of Life, I have employed a digital combination of images, as well as some drawing, scratching etc. on the prints to enhance the element of the unfamiliar. In this project I have chosen to omit the text that I often utilize in my work, allowing the images to speak for themselves.
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