LEWISBURG - No, that's not a rock or a mountain - it's all skin, baby. In her "Self-Portraits 2002-2004," on display at the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University until Oct. 2, artist Myra Greene presents photographs of her body that are so close, they abstract her form, rendering it more akin to a landscape than a body.
In a phone interview with the Sun-Gazette, Greene said that she thinks the works reveal her "darker side."
"It was a revelation that I'm a lot darker or gloomier, that there's a darker side that I could explore and that it's okay to explore - the world won't end because you're not only talking about positive things," she said. "It was nice to explore the darker side of things, the darker side of my personality."
Myra Greene’s “Self-Portraits 2002-2004” will be on display at the Samek Art Gallery at Bucknell University until Oct. 2. For more information about the artist, visit www.myragreene.com.
Greene has been making self-portraits since she was a college student at Washington University in St. Louis.
"I started making them in undergrad - when I was 19 or 20 and I still make them," she said. "I feel like I try to photograph myself in different ways. Sometimes I call them self-portraits, sometimes I don't. I've been photographing myself for a while, I won't say specifically how long because then you'd know how old I am [laughs]. Let's just say awhile. This project helped me find a new way to do it."
This "new way" included making digital prints from "gooey" stuff that she took from polaroids.
"When you made a polaroid, you pulled it apart and you'd have the print and the gooey, left-over thing," Greene said. "I would play with the gooey, leftover-thing and then I would scan it and make a print."
The sticky stuff - while fun to talk about and, presumably, even more fun to play with - isn't durable.
"That gooey stuff isn't chemically stable," she said. "I took that, scanned it and made them larger. The original size was 4 by 5 inches."
The works at the gallery are 15-inches-by-20-inches. "I'm going to go small for the next body [no pun intended] of work - 3 by 4 inches," she said. "I don't think that because you can make them big, you need to. Pictures of the body, I think, should be to the scale of someone's body. When it's too big, I think it's grotesque."
Besides the body, Greene's work also involves commentaries on race.
A write-up for the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago said, "Greene uses portraiture to investigate the construction of racial identity."
Her current project, "My White Friends," looks at the issue of race from a different angle.
"I'm trying to stop talking about blackness and trying to think about racial description in a different way that we don't talk about culturally," she said.
A New York City native, Greene now lives and works in Chicago - a place she described as "amazing."
"It's a great community of photographers and artists," she said. "There's always something to do."
Greene is an assistant professor of photography at Columbia College. She received her bachelor's degree in fine art from Washington University in St. Louis and her master's degree in fine art in photography from the University of New Mexico.
Greene said that graduate school at UNM took some getting used to but was definitely a good experience.
"It was a culture shock - but that was a good thing," she said. "It was good to break away from what I knew, to not rely on the comforts of knowing and to force yourself to rethink. I got mentors for life from there."
The artist has returned the favor by becoming a professor herself and said that her students inspire her to work more.
"They are energetic and inquisitive and that's why I love teaching," she said. "That energy rubs onto you. They ask questions and they have perspectives that I've never considered before."
Greene sees her art as more conceptual than intuitive.
"After looking, there's all of these questions that come out of the work - the work isn't trying to solve those questions, it's just trying to present them," she said. "That why I think it's conceptual. Saying that it's intuitive means that there was no work for the viewer to do."
Greene will visit Bucknell for an artist talk at 5 p.m. Sept. 30 in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center. For the talk, the artist said that she will discuss her artmaking process.
"I will try to explain how I play with the photographic process to make things look different and add contextual meaning," she said.