The images currently on display at 40AU Gallery sprang from an unusual inspiration. Eden Luquire, a recent Lipscomb graduate, explains that during a senior photography class, “I was really interested in creating something that was hard to duplicate, because there were a couple girls that, whenever I would try something new, they would copy it … I was excited by showing up with something that most people wouldn't have shown up with.”
She succeeded. The beautiful and enigmatic images in Optical Annuli would defy the powers of even the most determined copycat. Each piece presents a variation on a basic circular shape. One print has a delicate, fluted white border and is largely filled by an array of multiform bubbles, like a psychedelic lightshow in grayscale. In another, dozens of spokes radiate from a mottled black center disc like translucent clock hands; elsewhere, striated concentric circles call to mind the rings of a tree stump. They're abstractions that draw the spectator in to seek real-world points of reference.
The prints may resemble photographs, but they're actually photograms, an art form that involves placing objects on light-sensitive paper without the intermediary of camera or film. Although the photogram is, in Luquire's words, “way out of style,” it has a distinguished history: Man Ray's 1920s-era Rayograms transformed everyday objects like thumbtacks and coils of wire into witty, abstract compositions. It's a medium that excels at making the familiar strange.
And Luquire's pieces are made from familiar items: “intricate circular plates and bowls and ashtrays” that she collects from thrift stores. Filtered through translucent glass, light from an enlarger creates ghostly layers of grays and blacks on paper. Luquire achieves further complexity by filling the vessels with water and other liquids. “I would see how the water, the ripples in the water, would affect the piece. And I would also experiment with oil — they look like bubbles almost, but they're oil circles or oil marks.” Using ink or dye creates a dark “inverse of the glassware filled with water and oil.”
Luquire is a wedding photographer by day, a job she enjoys “because love is fun.” Event photography might seem starkly different from the abstract experimentation on display in her show, but each art form is an attempt to capture the ephemeral. Luquire explains that while working on Optical Annuli, she became fascinated by photographs of water.
“I kept finding images that were black-and-white," she says, "and they almost looked like photograms to me, but I wasn't sure how [the artists] made them. I think that's where the idea to do photograms came from. A bunch of the abstract images that caught my eye, I was just like, 'how do they make that?' I guess I wanted to create something that made people ask that question.”