Vanessa Marsh Interview - The Hopper Prize

Vanessa Marsh

Vanessa Marsh on finding an artistic voice, the materiality of photography, & landscapes that evoke solidity, magnitude and wonder.

How did you get into making art?

Growing up my mom was a graphic designer and an oil painter so there was always a lot of art supplies around the house and my brother and I were encouraged to be creative. I started to find my own artistic voice in middle school with my first darkroom photography class. I was immediately interested in the materiality of photography and the magic of the chemical processes. I think coming to photography with a background in so many other materials really informed my approach even at a young age.

What are you currently working on?

The Sun Beneath the Sky which is a series of lumen photograms based on the mountain ranges of the Western US. I take the subject of granite mountain ranges; landscapes that evoke solidity, magnitude and wonder and transform them into something ethereal, transparent, and airy. I create these images to highlight that these landscapes are part of a living system of interconnected, and sometimes fragile parts, even as it may seem grandiose on an individual level.

I was immediately interested in the materiality of photography and the magic of the chemical processes.

Vanessa Marsh

What inspired you to get started on this body of work?

I first experimented with the lumen process when my local darkroom closed and I wanted to find a way of working photographically without relying on outside facilities. It is a very accessible process and I appreciated how I could make the work in my studio. I was very drawn to the color palette and I could image translating some of my core ways of making into the process like using cut paper masks and burning and dodging techniques.

Do you work on distinct projects or do you take a broader approach to your practice?

I work in distinct projects however I am often working on multiple projects at once. Right now, I am creating work for the Sun Beneath the Sky series and working on some drawings for a series of wet plate collodion photograms. I am also finishing up a big public art project in San Lorenzo, CA.

What’s a typical day like in your studio?

When I am making the lumen prints, I typically start by going through all of my paper masks, looking for a silhouettes that jumps out at me. I may also go through finished prints and think about different methods for creating light and shadow in the work. Then I begin making exposures and I usually have between 5 and 6 exposures going at once, depending on how large I am working. Making the exposures requires a lot of running around and I expose the paper to different forms of sunlight. Another day might just be processing the work in my little wet room in the basement or scanning and titling pieces.

Who are your favorite artists?

In no praticular order; Vija Celmins, James Chronister, Erik Parra, Tabitha Soren, Binh Danh, Michal Rovner, Dawoud Bey, Uta Barth, James Casebere, Sally Mann, Ron Saunders, Alexander Kori Girard, Kelly Ording, Liz Nielsen, Mariah Robertson, Fred Tomaselli, Robert Adams, Ansel Adams, …. I am drawn particularly to landscape and imagined/made up places but also to layering and transparency.

Where do you go to discover new artists?

Going to galleries and museums, Instagram, also through researching the other artists in any group shows I might be in. Also, interviews and websites like Hopper; it is always interesting to research the favorite artists of other artists!

Stay Connected

Follow Us on Instagram

Join Our Network