Prographica / KDR is pleased to present a solo show of work by Marsha Burns curated by Norman Lundin.
The historic survey of photographs by Marsha Burns includes a selection of iconic silver gelatin, Polaroid & recent digital prints.
There is psychological insight in Marsha Burns' work. The people in her photographs have character and distinct personalities. The viewer can get close to them but not to the artist—she remains distant. This is her way, and that emotional distance is a compelling factor in her art.
While work for the show wasn’t selected with a chronology in mind, it still provides some insight since the photographs span Burns’ career. Marsha Burns, who trained as a painter, began working with photography in 1972 while living in Texas. Shortly thereafter, she returned to the Northwest and in her Seattle studio, began photographing people she knew. Of these figure studies shot over more than a decade, Burns said, "Each subject was approached as one formal element among a complement of others—glass, mirrors, changing light." These silver gelatins printed on 8 x 10” photo paper are among her signature works.
Burns visited Berlin in 1984; during this eye-opening trip she was struck by young people on the street and how they set themselves apart by their choice of dress and accessories as well as body language. Back in Seattle and then in other cities—Rome and Frankfurt in 1987 as well as New York in 1986 and 1989—she focused on these attributes in her photographs. This work continued into the 1990s with an expanded range of subjects. Burns wrote, “In an age of technology and urbanization I am drawn to the boundaries, to people whose existence is self-defined.” Some of these works are silver gelatins, often printed on 16 x 20” paper. Others are 20 x 24” format Polaroid prints shot during several residencies Burns received from the Eastman Kodak Company. These residencies, two in New York (1986, 1989) and the other in Frankfurt (1987), provided her with studio space and the opportunity to use the 20 x 24” Polaroid camera. As always, she found her own subjects on the street or by word of mouth.
In the late 1990s Burns began experimenting with making work on her computer. Dipping into her existing library of digital images, she combined them in new contexts and platforms. She writes: “The arrival of the digital era and subsequent loss of photographic veracity led me into working in the world of digital defacing. With a uniform format I could with two or more images address ideas and relevant issues of our times. Gradually the ‘portraits’ have become psychological. Content being small, very small.”
Marsha Burns studied at the University of Washington (1963-65) and the University of Massachusetts (1967-69). She is a longtime Seattle resident.
Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; the Centre Pompidou; the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson; the Seattle Art Museum; the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle; the Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington; and the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon, among others.
Burns’ photographs have been widely shown in the United States and Europe. Recently her work has appeared in Women in Photography at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, Bainbridge Island, Washington (2017); Implied Fictions at Pivot Art + Culture, Seattle (2016 - 17); Curator's Perspective: Magic Windows/Framing Place at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington (2015); Out [o] Fashion Photography: Embracing Beauty at the Henry Art Gallery (2013); Flesh & Bone: Photography and the Body at the Portland Art Museum (2012-13); Marsha Burns: Portrait of America at the Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia (2003); and Marsha Burns: New Photographs at the Charles Cowles Gallery, New York (2001). Other important shows include Eye of the Beholder at the International Center of Photography, New York (1997); Selections 6: Works from the Polaroid Collection at Weber State University, Ogden, Utah (1996); and About Face at the Houston Center for Photography (1994). Burns received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978 and 1988.
A 20-page catalog accompanies the exhibition.