Linda Alterwitz: Sanctuary: New Works
“The images from Sanctuary: New Works by Linda Alterwitz beautifully speak to our environmental crisis as fragile and otherworldly objects, marrying human emotion and the natural world.”—Aline Smithson
The concept of sanctuary, though often idealized, is rarely acknowledged as fleeting and subjective. Sanctuary: New Works by Linda Alterwitz explores notions of refuge with an interdisciplinary approach and great psychological depth. Replete with photographs featuring landscape and architectural imagery, brain scans printed on gauze, simulated wind, and a musical score composed by Christian Tamburr, Alterwitz’s installation feels like embarking on a journey inside one’s own mind. From moment to moment, the rhythmic flapping of gauze and gentle driving melody of Tamburr’s score serve as reminders that psychological states are temporary, constantly ebbing and flowing depending on external stimuli. This experiential installation reminds the viewer that change is required for personal growth, and that exploring one’s vulnerability is necessary for healing. Ask yourself: What do I need to feel safe and grow?
Linda Alterwitz’s photographs feature mysterious landscapes and blurry, abstracted images of homes. When paired within an exhibition, these types of images imply the push and pull within each person’s internal and public life. In the context of this exhibition, they also serve as potential locations of refuge or conflict; it is hard to separate the two. Take for example the nylon sutures adhering the brain scans (electroencephalograms) to Alterwitz’s photographs. The scans are visual representations of individuals’ brain activity while they are distressed. Affixing the scans to images with sutures simultaneously implies healing as well as trauma. While the two are inextricably bound to one another, there is great optimism in Alterwitz’s drive to create a space of safety and healing within her exhibition. Her continued dialog with medical professionals, including work with internal medical residents and graduate nursing students at the Mayo Clinic, underscores her commitment to helping others find peace.
The painterly, emotional quality of Linda Alterwitz’s photographs is informed by her early career and interest in Abstract Expressionism. During a recent exchange she wrote, “I gained a sensitivity for color, movement, texture, composition, and edges that is still engrained within me today, even in my art and science-based investigations. I have also been very influenced by Man Ray and the freedom of his experimental practice.” Given her interest in merging science with art, it comes as no surprise Alterwitz is also inspired by Lazlo Maholy-Nagy, who lived during the first half of the twentieth century and voraciously integrated technology and art within his studio practice. In terms of other influences, Alterwitz respects photographers who are fully committed to their chosen subject matter. Sally Mann easily falls into this category, as does David Maisel, whose investigations of the human toll on the environment blur the line between abstraction and documentary photography.
Linda Alterwitz earned her MFA from the University of Denver in 1984. Dozens of institutions have exhibited her work, including the New Mexico Museum of Art, Missoula Art Museum, Center for Creative Photography, New Orleans Photo Alliance, and the Yixian Photography Festival in Yixian, China. Notably, she was awarded the Fellowship for Visual Arts by the Nevada Arts Council in 2015. That same year she served as artist-in-residence at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Selected publications that have discussed her creative practice include the Smithsonian Magazine, Diffusion Magazine, Orion Magazine and Musée Magazine. –
Ben Hickey, Curator of Exhibitions, Hilliard Art Museum
As an artist, I have been drawn to invisible threads that reside at the intersection of art and science. I explore the unseen rhythms of the human body and our relationship to the natural world. For me, internal rhythms reflect both individual and collective minds. I transform scientific data into a poetic iteration of motion and time. From the rise and fall of one’s chest during the act of breathing to the electrical waves of the brain, these cyclical patterns remain a constant source of inspiration to me.
In the series Envisioning the Veil, I utilize data output from electroencephalogram testing (EEG) used to analyze electrical activity of the human brain in distress. To me, this data represents a visual metaphor for abnormal human thoughts and emotions. Using medical suture thread, I sew EEG data that I have printed on medical gauze directly onto photographs I have taken, giving reference to endangered natural landscapes and threatened homes. The physical degradation of the natural and domestic settings is not apparent, reflecting the hidden features that often underlie foreboding conditions.
I think about my own place of personal sanctuary, my home in the Mojave desert—a beguiling environment capable of great beauty and inflicting great harm. I remind myself to tread lightly upon this desert floor and honor the delicate layers of connections that bind me to the Earth and to people I love. – Linda Alterwitz
Photography by Linda Alterwitz
Text by Benjamin M. Hickey, Curator of Exhibitions, Hilliard Art Museum
9.75 x 9.75 inches
44 pages / 21 plates
Design by Linda Alterwitz and Jace Graf
Production by Jace Graf of Cloverleaf Studio, Austin, TX
Limited Special Edition of 75
- Signed by Linda Alterwitz and Benjamin M. Hickey and numbered
- Included with each book is a signed and numbered archival art piece
Untitled #2 (I Behold), (variant) image size: 8 ½-inch square
- Each art piece is made up of two layers of archival prints. The photograph on the bottom layer is printed on Canson Platine Fibre Rag paper. The photograph overlay (representing real EEG data) is printed on Jacquard fabric and hand-stitched by the artist onto the bottom layer.
- Each piece is signed by the artist and numbered one through seventy-five.
- Also included within each book is a QR code linked to original musical accompaniment composed and performed by Christian Tamburr with lyrics by Michael Andrew
Linda Alterwitz, (b. 1960) is a visual artist utilizing photography, collage, and interactive strategies. Explorations in the explicit ambiguity of feeling both fear/dread and comfort/refuge continues to be a central theme of inquiry. Her projects focus on the unseen rhythms of the human body and our relationship to the natural world.
A twelve-year exploration within the fields of science and technology informed her creative practice and led her toward an in-depth investigation of the nexus between nature, society, and the individual.
Her current work integrates the authenticity of science and the communicative power of art, sparking dialogue on the intended and unintended consequences of humankind when we separate ourselves from our environment.
Final works take the form of large format photographs, constructed images using non-traditional materials and woven tapestries presented in both traditional exhibition and immersive public installation experiences.
Alterwitz received her BFA from CU Boulder and her MFA from Denver University. She currently resides in Las Vegas, NV.
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