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Expanded Documentary

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Sheila Pinkel, American
How Old Are Flowers?, 2004-2005
Photographic materials on paper
24 x 37 in. (60.96 x 93.98 cm)

Object Type: Photogram
Technique: Xeroradiography
Credit Line: Gift of Sheila Pinkel
Accession Number: 2012.13.1

This work is part of an eight-piece suite, entitled "Hopes and Dreams."

Since 1973, all of my work has been about making visible the invisible in nature and in culture. Initially, I used many light sensitive emulsions and technologies to reveal the infinite potential for form in nature and the landscape of my imagination. While making one of the first digital films at the USC School of Engineering Image Processing Laboratory in 1976, I saw an example of Xeroradiography, commercially known as Mammography. From 1977 to 1983, I used this technology at the Xerox Medical Research Center in Pasadena, producing hundreds of images while investigating the internal structure of the natural and man made world. The color of the images is blue because doctors preferred to look at that color.
First, I placed objects on a charged selenium plate. Then the plate was placed in an X-Ray box and I selected X-Ray intensity relative to the projected density of the object(s) being imaged. The X-Ray changed the charge on the plate. Then the plate was placed in a Xerox machine, dusted with charged toner and in about a minute a print would be produced. How Old Are Flowers? is one of eight image/text works that deal with the concept of time. The theme of time was important to me, especially in the early to mid 1980s because of the growth of the military industrial complex and my concern about the fragility of nature because of it.
Later in the 1980s, I made large murals from black-and-white photograms entitled, “Time Frames,” which I produced on a special laser scanning Xerox machine that had a computer memory, which also included my concern about how long life would endure. Most recently, I have done a large body of work about the growth of incarceration in the United States and the loss of civil liberties. I have come to think of all of my work as “Site Unseen” and have titled all of these bodies of work using this term: “Site Unseen: Light Works”; “Site Unseen: Incarceration”; “Site Unseen: Museum Guards”; ”Site Unseen: The Garment Industry,” etc. In this way, not only do I reference realities we normally can’t see, but I invite viewers to imagine their own.
Sheila Pinkel Emerita Professor of Art, Pomona College


photographic materials on paper

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