Searching for a Sense of Wholeness
The portfolio of the world renowned American visual artist Anne Arden McDonald presents a few of her key art projects, which are significant for her whole artwork. The presented cycle of Self Portraits, by building installations in abandoned interiors and performing privately for her camera in these spaces, opens for us largely the author´s own conceptual way of thinking about the medium of photography. As the author says in her statement, the performances explore her relationship to the world around and are part ritual, part dance and part daydream, because she feels frustrated by the limitations of an earthbound body. This dilemma of living in a body with a mind that dreams serves as visual metaphors for struggles we face each day: tensions and balances, the necessity of keeping hope alive despite the obstacles, and the challenge of acknowledging our vulnerability without being crushed. Searching for this line of thought is also typical in her other project titled Cameraless Photography, in a large body of dreamy photographs shot with a Diana camera over several decades, which gives her artwork an incredibly strong time dimension without using a camera or negative. And Anne Arden McDonald continues the thought in this context, even now, when more recently she has been using light and chemistry the way a painter or sculptor would to build images on photographic paper, thus succeeding and revisiting some historic photo processes like Man Ray’s photogram, Pierre Cordier’s chemigram, lumen printing, etc. Thanks to these camera-less experiments, we can be spectators of a chemical painting, where in one image, over 100 medicines, spices, and household cleaners were applied. Her imagery emerges as circles and spheres, representing planets and atoms, visualizing the macrocosm and the microcosm of life, which is strongly related to search for a sense of wholeness. Her dream structures carry a metaphor of the journey, of a sacred wandering, and also pose interesting questions about what photography is, and what it can be. It is a holistic philosophy of thought as well as an authorial process by which the author semantically searches for the primary essence of the atoms of light and the causality of human existence. The existential level of her works is conditioned by the physical presence of the matter of the photographic medium itself, as well as by the physical presence of the author in the picture, when she visually transforms her innermost being tensions into the personified symbols of extinction and transience. The portfolio also offer a very interesting interview by Rafaelo Kazakov with Anne, where she introduces her effort to transcend the reality, her searching for inspiration in literature, song lyrics, poetry and mythology, but also how she transformed her imagination into her works mainly in the endless symbol of circle, and all this taking into account the time, faith and geopolitical background in which she grew up and formed. And through the prism of all this, the abstract work became a being of a bigger story, the story how planets were born and the universe started.
Abandoned buildings. Abstract photography. Alchemical photography. Alternative process. Atom. Cameraless photography. Chemigram. Cosmos. Dream. Experimental photography. Fine art photography. Installation art. Lumen print. Macrocosm. Microcosm. Performance. Photogram. Planets. Rayogram. Ritual. Self portrait. Staged photography. Sun.
MCDONALD, A. A.: Searching for a Sense of Wholeness. In European Journal of Media, Art and Photography, 2021, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 6-37, ISSN 1339-4940.