Elizabeth Opalenik: Mordançage
Mordançage is a photographic darkroom process that combines the potential for destruction into spectacular, one-of-a-kind photographs. By lifting the shadow areas into veil-like formations, the photographer transcends the representative image creating a unique abstract representation of the subject. This week we will look at the works of five photographers, each of whom brings a unique take on this challenging and mesmerizing process.
Elizabeth Opalenik’s stunning figurative works are a celebration of subject and method. She is known for her contribution of signature veils of floating emulsion to the mordancage process. Her sensual figurative works are a celebration of subject and process. With an application of the artist’s breath or strategically placed drops of water, shadow areas are lifted from the photographic emulsion. Elizabeth Opalenik is an early adapter and innovator in the mordancage process. Having studied for many years with Jean-Pierre Sudre in his studio, Opalenik credits this time together to finding her true passion in working with this challenging but rewarding process. These images reveal a spiritual virtue of the world we inhabit. Her photographs become a way of seeing what is unseen with the naked eye.
A selection of this work will be exhibited at the 8×10 fundraiser at The Center for Photographic Arts in Carmel and is currently on view during the group exhibition Re-Exposure: Flickering of the Photon. In addition Elizabeth Opalenik will be teaching a mordançage workshop in 2023 in Australia https://www.goldstreetstudios.com.au/events/mordancage-elizabeth-opalenik-3-days/
Elizabeth discovered photography as a metaphor for life in 1979 at the Maine Photographic Workshops and discovered passion with possibilities in Provence in 1983 where she later began her evolution as a Mordançeuse.Her contribution was a variation to the mordançage process by manipulating the silver gelatin to produce graceful veils of emulsion, adding her signature to this unique process. Traveling through six continents, camera in hand, she connects life’s possibilities through teaching workshops, humanitarian projects and making art. Her work is collected and published internationally.
Following a life-long dream, she released her first monograph, Poetic Grace-Elizabeth Opalenik Photographs 1979-2007. In 2020, Elizabeth conjured into existence, Workshop Stories: changed through photography involving stories and images from 100 contemporary photography instructors starting in the 1960’s that altered people’s lives.
Follow Elizabeth Opalenik on Instagram: @elizabethopalenik
As artists, we much each find our way and hope to leave something of value behind. The “draped spidery veils” are my contribution to Jean-Pierre Sudre’s Mordançage process, accomplished by using my breathe or drops of water to preserve and alter the delicate floating silver skin. My lifted emulsions add to the final image giving new life to the emotional landscape of the models and my mind.
With any procedure, there must be a marriage between subject and process for the best outcome. As the shadows lift in graceful fluidity they cling to the highlights in a dance which prompted Sudre to call me a Mordançeuse. Altered through intention and photographic possibilities, with or without veils, no two will ever be exactly alike. Each piece is unique and truly made by hand.
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