Lia Rothstein

Back in July a friend and I took most of a day to drive to Meriden, NH to see a show of photographically derived art by friend and colleague Lia Rothstein at the Aidron Duckworth Museum. (BTW: The Duckworth is a fascinating place, well worth seeing.) Some of you may know Lia from the days she had a photo gallery in White River Junction, VT called PhotoStop. 

On seeing this work you could be forgiven for thinking the  show wasn't so much a "photography" show as the wonderful art looked more like paintings and drawings. 

There's something to be said for being in this process for forty years or so. Lia's quiet sensibility and acute intelligence come through here loud and clear. This show had me questioning my own definition of what photography was as it used photography as its foundation but went on from there. Here's a brief description from the review of the show in ArtScope Magazine:

Working with light projections, digital and hand drawing, encaustic waxes, oil paints and other media, Lia Rothstein is transforming her photographs into highly abstracted, texturally nuanced, intriguing works on handmade Japanese and other fine art papers.

Lia's spent a lot of her career in the service of others: bringing up two kids, being the wife to a high powered husband, running a gallery, etc. I know first hand how hard she worked for me as I showed my work at her gallery twice. For this show she took a year off for herself to work, to experiment, to create. She rented a studio space just to work on these pieces. It was time well spent for she labored to extend her own definition of what photography is. This resulted in us questioning ours. I found myself thinking that this work is a confirmation of what it is to be an artist. The exhibition was a serious look at just what possibilities are imbedded in materials and tools used with an open mind,  an experimenter's curiosity to see "what if?"

With this new work, never shown before, it was hard to tell what was fixed. This piece seemed to float outside of its own fasteners on the wall, partly  transparent, partly photograph, partly painting.

The next six sat off the wall, elegantly fixed with magnets on the heads of nails, with small lights behind the encaustic treated paper.

The prevailing theme was water, its surface, transparency and its fluidity. 

These three, some of the most structured, were made from table top forms, warped with software, printed, then worked on the surface to blend, build, scrape, smooth and color. 

Although the show was not large Lia took on several kinds of explorations:

with a couple of large panels, highly abstract and yet somehow familiar, loosely interpretable as landscapes but also hitting a more emotional note.

Much of the work stemmed off an experience of a month-long residency in Iceland in 2012, where Lia began to work with different ways of making photographs and indeed, some of the initial images in this show came from Iceland.

Highly abstract, yet some of the pieces had wonderful form as they had an underlying structure.

# 1: Since the show is down how do you get to see this amazing work? Contact the artist: and, if you have any ability to influence a curator or gallery owner, urge them to take a look too as this work needs to be seen more.

#2: I can't resist the urge to editorialize about this work. Remember those early days of Photoshop? At school we used to call the work "hamburgers in the sky" because that's what people were doing. Compositing things randomly in the frame, like hamburgers, simply because they could. We have come a long way since then. Spending some time with Lia at the show, hearing her describe her process and rational behind her work, it occurred to me that this breaking down of barriers between photography and really all other visual art forms has reached a level of maturity, sophistication and confidence as to be seamless. Lia's process comes from a base of photography, as does her experience and training, but this work moves very far beyond that and we are the richer for it.

The show was amazing. Thank you, Lia, for sharing it with us.

Topics: Review

Permalink | Posted August 23, 2015