Patricia A. Bender: Euclidean Pursuits
When I create a photogram of a simple circle bisected by a line I have no understanding why it moves me or others, but it can. I love the cryptic nature of the conversation between art and emotion. – Patricia A. Bender
Several years ago, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles featured a terrific exhibition, Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography, that highlighted image makers using photographic materials and methodologies to create art. Patricia A. Bender’s project, Euclidean Pursuits, would have fit beautifully into that exhibition as she constructs photograms to explore line and shape using Euclidean systems of geometry. She states, “I wanted to create photograms that were of themselves and not about something else.”
Her examinations have received recent acclaim garnering First Place Juror’s Award in the 2018 Perkins Center for the Arts photography exhibition, one of her images was purchased by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for its permanent collection, and her work will be featured in Depth of Field 2018 Exhibition from April 14 through May 20 at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, CA.
Born in Iowa, Patricia A. Bender currently lives and works in New Jersey and Michigan. After a career in dance, Bender began studying photography in 2001 and was hooked from the moment she shot and developed her first image. She is devoted to analog processes and hands-on darkroom work. A recipient of numerous awards for her work, she received the Chris Clark Fellowship from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing in 2016. Bender exhibits extensively in solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. Her work was recently acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for its permanent collection. Bender’s work has recently been featured in print in The HAND Magazine and online as part of the New Jersey Artist Series. She was thrilled this year to see one of her small photograms transformed into a 14 x 48 foot billboard as part of the Art in the Sky program sponsored by the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. Bender will be exhibiting her work in Carmel, CA, this spring in the Depth of Field exhibition conceived and curated by Rfotofolio.
From the first day I began to make photographs seriously, I was drawn to creating abstract images. Using black and white film, I initially photographed in the manner of Aaron Siskin and Harry Callahan, seeking the abstract in reality: weatherworn rocks, torn bits of paper stapled to telephone poles, bare twigs breaching deep snow. I must have succeeded in this endeavor because people often did not recognize the thing I had photographed. This was satisfying because I had helped them see something in a different way.
In the past year, however, I found I’d become restless; no longer content hunting abstracts in the real world, I wanted to create them myself. Photograms seemed the perfect photographic process for this. I could play and experiment with objects, lines, papers, shapes, light, shadow, texture, size, and depth in the darkroom to construct my own abstract creations. To paraphrase one of my heroes, the artist Dorothea Rockburne, I wanted to create photograms that were of themselves and not about something else.
The mysterious ability of abstraction to move the human heart and mind has always fascinated me. When I photograph a beautiful tree I understand why people respond. After all, it’s a beautiful tree. When I create a photogram of a simple circle bisected by a line I have no understanding why it moves me or others, but it can. I love the cryptic nature of the conversation between art and emotion. Agnes Martin spent a lifetime creating her simple, mesmerizing, rectangular grid paintings in an effort to depict happiness on a canvas. What a glorious pursuit, and she captured it with a simple rectangle!
In the work shown here, all created this year, I have been exploring geometric abstraction, trying to figure out what I might create with just lines, circles, triangles and squares. The process is completely intuitive. I add and subtract shapes and layers until somehow they seem right. When it feels complete I stop and move on. The exciting and wonderful thing about creating geometric abstracts is the possibilities are infinite. A simple circle can spawn endless images. I guess I’ll be at this for some time to come.
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