Jon Verney: The States Project: Michigan
Jon Verney’s work came to my attention while he was a graduate student in the Stamps School of Art at The University of Michigan. There seem to be these ongoing cycles involving hand manipulated prints where alt process, destroyed silver gelatin, or even collage become hot, fresh, and the thing you see posted on blogs and appearing in contemporary photography exhibitions around the world. This interest in, and inventible turn back towards, the materiality of photography is an ongoing conversation, frequently punctuated by advances in technology including smart phone exposures on wet collodion plates, digitally altered vernacular imagery, etc. Verney’s work struck a different cord with me because the process by which he makes his one of a kind prints is not only unique but inherently badass since it relies on the mineral-laden waters of volcanic hot springs. Verney travels around the globe to produce his most recent series Thermophile and cites “the in-between mental space of a traveler is particularly ripe for creative thinking because one is encountering an abundance of new and unexpected information.” This embracing of the unknown, and obsession with scientific process, give the work a poetic rigor that results in a visually stunning set of images.
Jon Verney is an emerging artist who works in painting, photography, and video to describe notions of transformation and transcendence through landscape and materiality. Raised in a rural community in Western Massachusetts, Verney later moved to Boston to attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Shortly after earning his BFA in Painting, he emigrated to Florence, Italy, where he worked for three years as a darkroom technician and teaching assistant at Studio Art Center International.
Returning to the United States in 2014, Verney moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to pursue his MFA from the Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan. There, he received numerous grants from the University to fund his creative research into his thesis, Thermophile, including a Smucker-Wagstaff Scholarship and an International Project Grant to conduct fieldwork in the Yellowstone Caldera, Iceland, and the Salton Sea in California. Upon earning his MFA in 2016, Verney has been an artist in residence at the Vermont Studio Center and worked at UMMA, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, as a researcher with the museum’s extensive photography collection.
This project is an ongoing exploration in chemically altering gelatin silver prints in the mineral-laden, sulfuric waters of volcanic hot springs.
Accentuating the alchemy of film processes, this project speaks to the transformation of the self, both as metaphor and as physical, chemical reality. Marrying traditional silver-based photography, travel, and geophysics, this process traces the imagery’s metamorphoses through a series of specific chemical transformations.
After having been printed, bleached, and washed, the photos are transported to distant locations—volcanic environments teeming with hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots. In these geothermal fields I carefully immerse the photos into these superheated waters. Iron, sulfur, copper, aluminum—the atoms of dissolved elements latch into place, bonding to the silver in the photographs’ emulsions, fusing and forming new compounds.
This mineral abundance, paired with the springs’ acidity and temperatures, causes each photo to be redeveloped in a unique appearance—no two ever appearing the same.
In this way, each photo acts as a paper-thin capsule of the landscape in which it was toned. The earth then has final agency in how the images appear.
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Liz Cohen: The States Project: MichiganFebruary 11th, 2017
Jon Verney: The States Project: MichiganFebruary 10th, 2017
Georgia Rhodes: The States Project: MichiganFebruary 9th, 2017
Leah Gose: The States Project: MichiganFebruary 8th, 2017
Kottie Gaydos: The States Project: MichiganFebruary 7th, 2017