My third book Untitled Vol.3 is available to purchase on www.amazon.com.
The book showcases fifty black-and-white photographs from my ongoing master series "Untitled: A romantic typology of form", an artist statement, a bio, a resume and three articles written for the Huffington Post ("An artist's perspective on inspiration and making art,” 22 July, 2015, "Art seen through the lens of its architect,” 31 December, 2015, and “Art lets me be woman,” 9 January, 2017). The work is abstract in that it conveys a departure from reality. Yet the series is hyperrealistic in that images present sharp, high-resolution fragments of tangible objects. The photographs emphasize form and texture, while stressing what the subject may evoke in the viewer. The natural elements strategically placed within the frame may suggest particular behaviors such as seduction or withdrawal, or emotions like sadness, joy, and love.
"Women's experiences are very different from men's. As we grow up socially, psychologically and every other way, our experiences are just different. Therefore our art is going to be different.” -Joan Snyder
I began to be aware of what I should not do as a woman when I first moved from France to the United States in 2002.
Cultural differences helped me see gender stereotypes that I had not previously noted and I realized that as a woman I was not supposed to let my feelings flow, be too sensitive, or show emotion in professional and social settings.
Since then, I have spent most of my time functioning in a space in which I feel that I am acting, stripped of my strength, my womanhood.
But whenever I can, I retreat to another space, a space of creativity where I am free to express myself, where I don’t need to act, where I can embrace my feelings, sensitivity, and emotions. In that space I am alive, receptive, and able to fabricate and communicate. In that space, I can make art.
Art lets me be woman.
In recent years, I have discovered that forms experienced in nature, transport me to that space of creation and trigger feelings that I am then free to voice in a language that is neither aggressive nor explicit but romantic in that it emphasizes my personal feelings and emotions.
Forms are an essential part of reality, as are color or flavor; and neuroscience teaches that they are always present in our minds as fabrications. When we experience a form, our brain creates a spatial pattern that it processes as an object available to higher levels of perception: memory, emotion, or language. Whatever I see I perceive as a form or combination of forms, devoid of detail. For me, for example, the image of a Madonna and Child is made up of a particular set of interrelated forms. Whenever I come across a similar combination of forms in nature--in a leaf, for example--it reminds me of the Madonna and Child.
A subject’s placement within the picture frame also evokes for me a physical property like mass, or motion or position between earth and sky. In setting the flat, circular form of a poppy’s crown in the upper part of the frame I was recalling the flat, raised host before it is broken and its parts distributed to the faithful.
When associated with texture, forms become less generic and more palpable. We all know the feeling of a rugged edge or a fur-like, undulating surface. At the macro scale in which I see my subject, photograph it, and then print the image, the texture of a Gingko Biloba leaf looks like the aggregate concrete surface in Paul Rudolph's architecture. The leaf’s image invokes the feel of its lamina against my fingertips. To others it may look and feel like something else, for we each have our unique knowledge and experience of things.
Tactile features of my images may evoke animal behavior and emotion, as well. Two shiny, smooth, sinuously-intertwined tubular stems made me think of a young woman’s naked legs posed seductively. An arrangement of three photographs of the subject, taken at different angles, created a joyful Three Graces among whom charm, beauty, and creativity were in play.
Forms from everyday life enshrined in our memories can, like the evocative taste of Proust's madeleine dipped in tea, bring back fine details of a past event. Two gently-overlapping stems with flattened ends called up a pleasurable childhood memory that had been long locked away: sitting on brightly-colored cushions in the public library, I am reading the story of shoelaces whose love play made their shoe wearer trip and fall. My personal analogy caused an involuntary recall that felt vivid and meaningful and allowed an essential part of me to resurface. Did the shoelace story shape my concept of love? Was it the wellspring of my aesthetic project, “Untitled: a romantic typology of form”? Did it make me who I am today? May my images provoke in others their own moments of analogy-driven recall.
Leaving the studio, where I rationally determine whether a photograph is worthy to be Untitled, I search for what will trigger my internal, creative machine.
Carrying my tools--camera, macro lenses, and flash--I look for the purest of forms as I have learned that those are most likely to activate my machine.
I carve form out of raw matter--nature; install it within a frame; and model it with light, focusing on areas that I sense are important to expose. All the while, I project my feelings and emotions.
The photograph is finished when the image conveys what I have come to feel.
May my art lead viewers to their own spaces where they, too, can be free to see, feel, and respond.
Dear friends, I am pleased to say that my artwork is now represented by Galerie Philia in Paris, France. @galerie.philia (on Instagram)
Galerie Philia exhibits a collection resulting from a rhizomatic research transcending formal, stylistic, national or even historical barriers. The selected works can emanate from different cultures and periods, incarnate in disparate and multiform mediums, and evoke multiple and changing interior worlds. The only criterion unifying this composite plurality is quality, both in terms of aesthetics and meaning.
The gallery attempts to build bridges between different artistic continents in order to highlight works endowed with a marked artistic depth.
The gallery sells works by Arman, Albert Feraud, Salvador Dali, Jean-Michel Atlan, Robert Marc, Henri Matisse, Pierre Soulages, and Verner Panton, among others.
More at www.galerie-philia.com
I am truly honored, my second self-published book "Untitled Vol.2" had been added to the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. The V&A is home to the UK's National Collection of the Art of Photography, which comprises approximately half a million works and tells a history of photography from the 1830s to the present day.
The book showcases fifty photographs from my ongoing master series of black-and-white photographs of living plant elements. All photographs in the series are taken in nature, parks and gardens. The book is available to purchase on Amazon, and can be found in the library at the Museum of Modern Art, the library at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, ThePhiladelphia Museum of Art library, the library at the FOMU, and the Fine Arts Library at the Harvard Art Museums.
Sophia Nguyen "Seeing Spring" Harvard Magazine (May-June 2016)
In 2013, office-bound in a high-stress architecture job in Manhattan, Anna Agoston, M.Arch.II ’04, then an occasional photographer, rarely ventured outside. “I was let go in March,” she recalls, “and it was as though I had never seen spring.” Once she saw, she couldn’t stop looking. Camera in hand and flush with time, she began taking pictures of what grew in the sidewalk cracks on her street in Brooklyn, and in the nearby parks and botanic gardens. The result is a series, hundreds strong, that examines floral features in extreme close-up: the ridge along a stem; a thistle’s spikes.
Agoston attributes her delight in these details to her limited contact with nature while growing up in Paris. “I was stunned by the countryside,” she says, especially during family hiking trips to the nearby forest of Fontainebleau, with its huge formations of white rock. “Maybe now with my macro lens, looking at tiny things with a lens that makes them look much larger—maybe I’m looking for the boulders of my childhood.”
Even in close-up, her plants don’t look like monuments of a distant geological age. But captured in black and white, against a plain background, a bulb is made sculptural, and the curve of a leaf, architectural. The intensity of Agoston’s focus abstracts these forms, making them seem durable, almost timeless.
For an earlier series, Dorm, she knocked on dozens of her graduate-student neighbors’ doors during finals week and asked to take their pictures. Where that class assignment documented the diversity within a local ecosystem, Agoston’s current project removes life from the context of habitat. (And her current subjects—numbered, but unnamed—don’t object to being studied so closely, from every angle.) A tendril curls, doubling back to coil around itself; two woody twigs reach to braid together. Her true subject seems to be the mysterious elegance of adaptation, finding pragmatic solutions to unseen problems.
When her ongoing series hits 300 images, she plans to publish a third book, and one day, a single collected volume. By late February, Agoston had taken photograph 245. “The winter,” she says, “is a little slow.”
link to the article: "Seeing Spring"
The Tree That Bears Fruit by Adam T. Crawford, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Precise-Moment magazine, an article regarding my artwork and artistic process was published this morning 090315 on the LensCulture website. It is a beautiful article. I am deeply humbled and honored. Thank you Precise-Moment and Lensculture.
My art is of my soul. It is a fabrication of my internal machine, an organic engine powered by my conscious and unconscious minds. It is, however, more visceral than intellectual.
I am an artist! I first said those words in October 2013 and since then I have been serious about making art. Saying those words meant I could no longer not make art. Six months earlier I had been laid off from a job that was time-consuming and stressful. My senses were numb and I was oblivious of my surroundings but in the month of March, 2013, when buds, stems and leaves began to sprout, I felt as though I had never seen spring before. I took in the world with my eyes and soul. And I gave in to the urge to make art.
When I made the first picture in my Untitled series I knew I had something strong. I couldn't stop looking at it. I contemplated it for days on my computer monitor. It was a picture of a part of a plant stripped of all references to its environment. I loved its simplicity of shape, its complexity of texture, and what these evoked in me. I knew that I had found my way.
Looking back now, my path makes sense. I know what structured my internal machine: I grew up in the center of Paris, France, where for months at a time I saw no nature. I lived with my father, a chemical engineer turned German Expressionist painter; my mother, a serious amateur photographer; and my younger brother. Camera, darkroom, and oil paints were all intrinsic to our daily life. We were a modest household in a bourgeois neighborhood.
While my brother embraced our artistic heritage at art school, I was more curious about human behavior. Studying psychosis in an undergraduate clinical psychology program gave me insights into how the mind works. I went on to medical school with the idea of becoming a psychiatrist and discovered a fascination with anatomy and with cellular biology's focus on the cell, its form, and its function. After I failed to enter the second year, I took some time off and enrolled in life drawing classes, where I continued to explore human anatomy. I used my portfolio of nudes to apply to architecture school and went on to earn two master's degrees in architecture.
Everything came together for me in architecture school. I took classes in anthropology, sociology, and art history as well as architecture. Architecture embraced all my passions: man and art, anatomy and the cell. My maturing internal machine made consciously meaningful but simple statements. In a memorial I designed to commemorate the police killing in 1986 of 22-year-old Franco-Algerian student Malik Oussekine, one entered into a dark downward spiral and emerged into a sky-lit space surrounded by concrete monoliths.
My aesthetic sensibility, informed by what I have seen and felt, is intrinsic to my internal machine. One of my first memories is of color combinations on a kimono in a museum where I was taken when I was about six years old... the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen. When I visited Japan in the summer of 2000 I was again moved by what I experienced of the traditional Japanese aesthetic. It spoke to my soul and confirmed what I love.
In my Untitled series I see the influence of the traditional Japanese aesthetic whose source is the concept of wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi originated with Zen Buddhism and was introduced into Japan around the 12th century of the common era. Developing in isolation from the rest of the world, it was to become an internal cultural machine that Japanese people find difficult to explain in Western terms. As Leonard Koren writes in Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers, "Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble." A wabi-sabi artifact suggests a natural process. It is, Koren writes, "irregular, intimate, unpretentious, earthy and simple."
I was already in my 20s when I first encountered the sculptures of Constantin Brâncuși at his reconstructed studio in the Georges Pompidou Center. Seeing his use of basic, essential shapes to evoke behaviors like flight and sleep I imagined that his work was less a product of his mind than it was of his internal machine, shaped by his sensory experiences in the land where he had grown up. I think of my Untitled series as being more sculpture than photography. Its emphasis is on each subject's shape and texture, and what they may evoke in the viewer.
When my internal machine goes to work, it is the creator while I become one with my subject. I think less than I see and feel. I am entirely in the present, existing only to choose which raw natural elements enter the internal machine to exit as images that will hold my gaze and thoughts.
I make photographs.
That means that it is the psychological place where I am when I take a photograph that determines my subject, what I feel, and how I express it...
I walk, see, breathe and ideas take shape.
I write and ideas shape into words.
I see, feel and art is made.
What do I do? I go for walks and take pictures of parts of plants.
Why do I do this? I love the shapes of plants and what certain shapes evoke. And I love making what I see say what it evokes by making art.
"I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them. "
I didn't go to art school.
I studied psychoanalysis in a clinical psychology undergraduate program; cellular biology, anatomy, and genetics at medical school; and form, space, structure, history of art, and architecture at architecture school.
Turning around and looking back, it all makes sense.
I don't think of myself as a photographer. I think of myself as an artist, a sculptor.
I do use a camera but only as a tool to chisel away at reality. I remove color, background. I define detail. I bring out texture. I arrange, frame. I work until spirit enters the image.