By Susan Tallman

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Pikes Peak (2012), photogravure and aquatint.

It is a persistent and perverse habit of artifacts, if they survive their makers, to become valued for qualities their makers never intended. Tools that were once cutting-edge become quaint; carpenters’ planes become wall ornaments and fishbaskets become sculptures. Isca Greenfield-Sanders works from 35mm slides of families on holiday in the brief halcyon days of American 20th-century hegemony. These pictures, which she picks up a flea markets, come pre-loaded with nostalgia, loss and longing, and also with failure—they are amateur snaps with the usual wonky exposures, light leaks, lens flares and shaky focus. These flaws give them the status of autographic (if anonymous) traces of the never-ending human attempt to stop time.

For Greenfield-Sanders they are the starting point of a process that moves repeatedly between hand and machine: she first prints the photographic image onto rice paper, then reworks it with color pencil and watercolor before scanning and enlarging the reworked image. When she makes paintings, she tiles printed rice paper sheets on canvas, and works over the surface with oil paint. When she makes prints, she reworks the photogravure both in the plate and with additional aquatint.

Isca Greenfield-Sanders, Wader I (Pink), Wader I (Blue) (2012), photogravure and aquatint.

In her current prints (her third major project with Paulson Bott Press) the quality of light betrays a photographic source, but all the actual marks would appear to be tenderly applied by hand. The images— all of that storied subject, bathers—are chromatically luxuriant, seductive and tauntingly inaccessible. In Pikes Peak the woman’s high-waisted swimsuit declares her chronological distance from us, but the towel-wrapped child, little more than cold knees and a glowing ponytail, could be any kid any time.

Each of the two Waders compositions places a single tentative figure within a dappled sea of color that stretches to all four edges of the plate, and each was printed in two versions: with blue water and, more peculiarly, pink. The pink may suggest the creeping magenta tide overtaking aged film, but it can also be seen as a decorative echo of the “red shift” of the space-time continuum—the way as things speed away from us the wavelengths of light appear to lengthen—blue becomes red as near becomes far. A reminder that light, like time, is never quite what you think it is.

© Copyright 1999-2017 by Isca Greenfield-Sanders.