Woman Crush Wednesday: Sandi Haber Fifield
Interview by Agnes Bae
According to your statement, Lineations is a body of work that you developed over the course of 25 years. The series is embedded in raw materials and nature--both of which I relate to time in the ways that they are susceptible to it, perhaps by deterioration or aging. How important was it for you to take a fairly substantial amount of time to finish this series? Was the process related to the concept in that way?
I’m interested in time, how it affects our perception of events and visual stimuli, as well as how time alters the natural world, but neither of those thoughts relate to the physical making of the work. However, the series has been a lengthy evolution and is ongoing. The earliest pieces directly extend the photograph with drawing. Later on, my intentions shift and in Lineations 2, photographic elements are introduced in new ways by breaking and extending space, forcing a questioning of where we are and how we got there…To answer your question about the importance of time in finishing the series, for me, all bodies of work are connected and the parameters that define “new” are artificial.
You mentioned the word "architectonic" in dialogue with Nature. I find it fascinating how this translates so well through the images and their geometric points. You are an architect of Nature in a way, and challenge perception through that which is the most natural and should therefore be the most immediately recognizable. How did you come to this pairing of artifice and nature?
Since the late seventies, I have combined images in a variety of ways. An earlier body of work, After the Threshold, which was completed in 2013, was based on a preset pictorial structure of 3 or 4 images; the resulting composites cohere in single grid compositions. This cognitively disparate narrative flits from conscious to unconscious. Although Lineations is less narrative than After the Threshold, it is a natural extension and relates to my longstanding interest in the nature of perception. The images play with space and how we alter it in our minds; the architectonic and geometric qualities come directly from spaces in the natural world as well as the man-made. Part of this series was made in my kitchen over two summers where the light cuts through the room and brings the outside in.
Can you speak a little bit about your post-process after the images were all shot? How did you go about selecting and deciding what alterations would happen?
The alterations for each piece are driven by the photograph. Sometimes, when I’m stuck, I’ll draw to loosen up and try new ideas, but my starting point is always photographic. The majority of my work happens in the studio and it is a lot of back and forth, until it “sings.” One image you selected, LC18_273, was a total fluke – I walked into my studio one morning and pieces from the day before were just sitting there. It was a gift and I love that. Making it happen again and again is the challenge.
Vellum is a raw material derived from calfskin, how did you incorporate it into your photographs? Why did you specifically choose this material?
Vellum has a milky quality which I like, and it allows just enough cover and reveal to suggest another layer of seeing. The natural vegetal things I shoot cast their shadows on geometric planes, they literally sprout up and live in tight spaces – I’m simply extending their world with my pencil and the vellum creates yet another plane which interrupts the flat nature of the medium.
Describe your creative process in one word.
It’s an overused word, but I have to say intuitive.
If you could teach a one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
I’ve been teaching a workshop called Finding Your Personal Vision for about 15 years; it’s a one-year commitment because I think it takes at least that much time to develop a body of work. In an hour I’d teach how to make Mexican chocolate ice cream. It’s yummy.
What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
It’s not a book or film, but I haven’t stopped thinking about the recent Reich / Richter event at the Shed. I’m a huge Richter fan and I was moved by the universality of the choral music in the space and its connection to Richter’s imagery. It was gorgeous and surprising. The repetition and dissonance of the Reich music connected to the fluidity of the digitally altered Richter work was a wonderful and inspired merging of mediums. I was mesmerized. I’m reading Nothing is Lost, essays by Ingrid Sischy.
What is the most played song in your music library?
Anything from Joni Mitchell.
How do you take your coffee?
With half and half (not milk!) until it’s just the right color.