Susan Bryant has brilliantly captured the splendid ruins and sculpture of classical antiquity—traditional sightseeing imagery—as well as the romantic landscapes of Montepulciano, Venice, Florence, and Rome with her modern-day digital camera and the revival of a nineteenth-century photographic process known as the wet-plate collodion process.
“My process yields original plates (on metal and glass), includes gelatin silver prints made from the glass negatives in addition to limited edition digital prints made from scans of the metal and glass plates,” said Bryant, professor of art, Austin Peay State University, Clarksville, Tennessee. “I’m challenged and inspired by this leaping from one century’s technology and aesthetic to another.”
Photographs from her series Italian Vistas, as well as those from Southern Landscapes, are on view in the Department of Art’s exhibition Borrowed Light at the Space 204 Gallery from now through July 28. The opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 pm on Thursday, June 8, in the E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center. Bryant said that both series were inspired by the painters of the Hudson River School and “my unabashed connection to romanticism.”
Images in the series Italian Gestures, photographed in museums and churches in Italy in 2014, reveal her fascination with hands—“how hands have mirrored human emotion and intention throughout the history of art and how such gestures lend themselves to metaphor and are imbued with a powerful presence; the sheer beauty of those sculptural gestures seemed to almost insist that I take those images.”
Bryant transferred her photograph of the legendary sunset from the Piazza Michelangelo in Florence to a tintype that surprised her with its timelessness “as if it could have been taken in another century.”
Free and open to the public, Borrowed Light is on display Monday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm in Space 204 Gallery, housed in the Ingram Studio Arts Center, 1204 25th Avenue South (25th and Garland Avenues) on the Vanderbilt campus.
Bryant received her BFA in painting in 1976 from Indiana University and her MFA in photography in 1978 from Indiana State University. She has taught photography classes at Austin Peay for the past 30 years. Her personal work includes gelatin silver prints, hand-colored silver prints, digital photographs, and most recently, the nineteenth-century processes of daguerreotypes, tintypes and wet plate collodion negatives and positives (ambrotypes). Her work has been widely exhibited across the United States in solo and juried exhibitions. She is the recipient of a Tennessee Arts Commission Fellowship and is represented by The Cumberland Gallery in Nashville, Tennessee.
*Italian Gesture #18, 2014, and Sunset, Florence, 2016, digital prints from scan of collodion tintypes