In today’s Griffin State of Mind, we feature Stefanie Timmermann. Her creative work, opens in a new windowBlue Morphs is on the walls of the Griffin until August 29th, 2021. We wanted to get to know more about Stefanie and her work, so we asked her a few questions.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
My friend Janice Koskey told me about the Griffin, and was incredibly positive about her experience. Naturally, I checked the Griffin out a few days later. Just coming up on it, I loved the house and surroundings. And I felt very welcome inside, too. A funny thing happened right away – I only had a $20 bill to pay admission (I wasn’t a member yet), and there was not enough cash in the till, so the staff graciously let me in for free. It kind of set the tone, and I was glad to become a member soon after.
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
Photography is pretty integral to my day-to-day life. Of course, I’m usually the dedicated photographer on any outing or party, but that just scratches the surface. On our walks, my teenage daughter and I collect anything out of the ordinary that could be used as a prop, and we do impromptu photoshoots where she might be wearing a fish head or gluing pufferfish spines to her face. I also use my camera as a license to be curious: A question might come up, and I will investigate and document the answer with photography. My most recent research answered whether chocolate burns or simply melts when you use a focused magnifying glass on it.
As to which artists have caught my attention recently – they don’t all have to be photographers, right? – I’m very much enjoying Serena Korda’s bizarre sculpture conglomerations right now (@serenakorda). Very recently, I discovered the phantasmagorical drawings of Anna Zemánková – in a way they feel like kin to my Blue Morphs.
For photographers, I’m really digging Suzanne White (@shepherdess1), Anneli Kunosson (@annelikunosson) and Laura de Moxom (@alibraryoflaura). Then there’s the always incredible Cho Gi Seok (@chogiseok), and also Sarah Waiswa (@lafrohemien) for cool fashion photography.
Please tell us a little about your exhibition, Blue Morphs and how it was conceived.
Blue Morphs is a series of cyanotypes layered with marks from paints, pens and the heat from a soldering iron. It is a melding of deliberate photography and expressive painterly gestures, and incorporates environmental and social justice messages in some images.
I started working on Blue Morphs during my Artist in Residence in Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia in upstate New York, in 2019. The natural surroundings really inspired me to make a lot of different cyanotypes from the available plants, and to research different ways to make my images multi-layered.
The artist paint manufacturer Golden Artist Colors is located quite close to Cazenovia, and after we artist residents toured the factory, we got a large box of seconds to take home. I started adding acrylics to the cyanotypes and was hooked!
I continued experimenting with overprinting and layering colors on cyanotypes when I came home. At first, I mainly worked intuitively, picking colors and forms subconsciously. During the pandemic, this meditative approach increasingly felt at odds with my escalating worry about social injustices and looming environmental disasters. I read a lot of thought-provoking articles during this time. Soon, I realized that my cyanotypes connected with these theories and constructs, and I developed these ideas further with the help of a paintbrush. My approach therefore shifted to meditating on the forms presented in the cyanotype before picking up the brush. Once I settle on a fitting theme, I interact with the raw cyanotype as if writing an essay.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
Oof, there have been so many! Most recently, I’ve been enamored with the sublime and thought-provoking exhibit “Spirit: Focus on Indigenous Art, Artists and Issues”.
‘Balancing cultures’, by Jerry Takigawa, was another standout. Such a beautiful and subtle exhibit on a heart-rending theme (the Japanese-American experience before and during WWII). Having Jerry talk so eloquently about his series in a Zoom presentation really deepened my understanding of his work and his subject matter.
The same can be said for Edie Bresler’s incredible photo/embroidery hybrids (‘Anonymous’). Her talk opened the subject matter to me, and in I engaged much deeper with her show when I visited. In general, being able to zoom into presentation has made it much easier for me to participate in evening talks, and I really hope that this format continues to be offered by the Griffin for quite some time.
Of older shows, Rocio de Alba’s ‘Honor thy mother’ still is very much on my mind. The unabashed campiness of the images hides the rather sordid truth of stereotyped roleplaying that goes on in so many families.
Last but not least, Gary Beeber’s ‘Personalities’ was in turn funny, sad, and poignant and has stayed with me all this time.
I should also mention that the annual member shows, both the juried Summer show and the open Winter solstice shows are also always very engaging. I personally love to see the variety of styles, techniques and thematic approaches that comingle under one roof during these shows.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
The beach in winter, when it’s mostly empty; the woods in summer; and always my own mind whenever I can have a little quiet space.
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
‘Braiding sweetgrass’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer was an eye-opening and hope-inspiring book. I wish books like this would be required reading in high school.