Fine Art Photography Daily

Sandra Klein: Stitched Self-Portraits and The Embittered Heart

Los Angeles photographer and printmaker, Sandra Klein, creates work that explores a host of sensory reflections on the analysis of emotions and self.  I am featuring two series, Stitched Self- Portraits where she hand stitches poetry on skin, working with a needle and thread to create a 3D photograph.  The result is raw, revealing, and powerful.  The second series, The Embittered Heart, are constructed images that speak to heartbreak, renewal, and to simply being human.

Sandra fell in love with photography (and her teacher), in her junior year at Tyler Art School. Each student was given an Olympus Pen W camera that shot 78 wonderful grainy photos per roll. As opposed to a class focusing on technique, the stress was on learning to see … a la Cartier–Bresson. She spent her youth on the east coast, having been raised in New Jersey and received a BFA in printmaking at Tyler a Masters Degree in Arts with a printmaking major from SDSU. After traveling the world, including a year living in Mexico, and later working in New York City, she moved California where she currently lives and works.

Stitched Self-Portraits 

My Stitched Self-Portraits are visual poems that evoke such universal emotions as loneliness and aging. For the past two years I have created composited self-portraits that are often combined with embroidered text, adding a three-dimensional element to the page. The text is gleaned from poems that have resonated with me and speak to issues that I am exploring In these portraits I use my body as the “canvas” or “paper”. 

Although I am a woman, I have always eschewed what I call womens crafts, including sewing, for several reasons. I was educated during a period when any artwork that could be identified as having a female creator was condemned as a failure. And, I had a perfectionist mother who was just too critical of my handiwork. There is something, though, about slowly and meticulously sewing these words onto the photograph that really personalizes and enlivens these pieces for me. I do not see the act of puncturing the image in any way as violent, but instead, I consider the embroidering a way to connect with the photograph and in a sense, with myself.

The series, entitled Embittered Heart, consists of visual poems that evoke the universal emotions of pain, loss and cynicism that often come with the experience of betrayal. Although my own such experience happened many years ago, the remnants of it have in some ways remained with me and changed me so that the memories feel vivid enough still to portray them honestly. 

All of these Archival pigment prints continue my study of the layered photograph. Each includes a heart, usually scanned from vintage medical charts and a cactus, which I photographed in my backyard. In most instances the rooted cactus grows out of the heart. They often reveal spines or prickers. I am especially concerned with relationships of color, size and the relationship of the two images. There may appear one cactus, or many. While the heart is alone with the cacti in my first pieces, I have recently begun to include entire figures. I am also adding embroidery to a few pieces. I continue to find the relationships in this series to be mysterious and magical.

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