Cathy Cone: Hand Painted Photographs
Cathy Cone is a photographer and painter based in East Topsham, Vermont. In her series Hand Painted Photographs she began the creative process by scanning tintype portraits dating back to 1869, which she has been collecting from flea markets and antique shops for decades. She digitally printed each piece, then applied gouache onto the surface of each photograph. Revealed is a playful transformation originating from an era of traditional portraiture using alternative process into a fanciful vision blending both digital photographic processes and traditional art materials. This series was derived from memories of her grandmother, whose port-wine birthmark that covered her chin and neck became the impetus for her creative photo paintings.
Hand Painted Photographs
My grandmother raised me. She was born with a large birthmark in the shape of a fish that covered her chin and neck. She referred to it as her purple stain. When I was young she would often tell me the story of how it happened repeatedly throughout my childhood. She told me her mother cut her finger cleaning fish when she was pregnant with her. Her mother put her finger up to her mouth immediately to stop the bleeding and according to my grandmother, “marked her”. Her mother died as a result of my grandmother’s birth several weeks later. Had she explained it any other way I would be a very different person today. I saw it a beautiful pattern imbued with magic not an imperfection. My grandmother suffered though stares and pointing fingers often as I was holding her hand. These kinds of folk stories and explanations were part of my childhood and nurtured my imagination. They held a transformative power as a kind of magical soul medicine.
I begin by scanning tintypes that I started collecting in the late seventies. The printed photograph then becomes a contemplative ground for painting. They are independent of each other physically, historically and on many other levels. The painted photograph essentially is a duet in which two mediums may contribute towards a whole. The integrity of both exists simultaneously in a shared physicality through and on the photographic print. The composition is essentially a duet where both mediums of equal importance. I’m interested in the translation of these found tintypes by reanimating or resuscitating the portrait. I think of the portraits as time travelers while painting late night seances. With the help of technology, the scanned tintypes often lead to new clues perceptually. It provides a field for painting and mark making. Perhaps they’re tarot cards from outer space. It’s my way of re-touching history.
Cathy Cone, along with her husband, master printer Jon Cone, founded Cone Editions Press, a collaborative printmaking workshop. Cone Editions is now located in East Topsham, Vermont where Cathy is director of the Workshops and Studio.
She received her training at Ohio University, Vermont Studio Center and the Maine Media Photographic Workshops. She received her MFA at the Maine Media College. She was awarded the Vermont Art Fellowships. Some of her exhibitions include Weisman Art Museum, University of Alabama, DeCordova Museum, and Vermont Center for Photography. Her works are in the collection of IBM, MCI, Hallmark Fine Art Collections, American Express and the Beekman, A Thompson Hotel, New York.
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