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Acts of Nature: Photographs by Zoë Zimmerman

January 12 - March 4, 2007


The Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico is presenting the exhibition Acts of Nature: Photographs by Zoë Zimmerman. The exhibition opens January 12, 2007 and will be on view through March 4, 2007. It features the elegant, yet edgy albumen prints of Taos photographer Zoë Zimmerman in which she uses natural and found objects to create evocative still lifes. 

Zoë Zimmerman was born in Manhattan but her family moved to Taos in 1972 where she continues to live and work. She comes from what she describes as "a visually oriented family": her father is a TV producer, her mother is a painter and her brother is a cinematographer. She began taking photographs at an early age with the encouragement of her family. After graduating from high school, Zimmerman took a job at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas making prints from the original negatives of the late Southwestern photographer, Laura Gilpin. She then went on to attend the Rhode Island School of Design where she received a BFA in photography.  (right: Zoë Zimmerman, untitled, albumen print)

Zimmerman's photographs are albumen prints, that is the photo chemicals are bound to the photo paper in a solution she makes with egg whites. She came to the process accidentally. A photographer friend had been hired to create albumen prints for a New York artist and was unable to figure out the process. Zimmerman took over the job, learning the painstaking 19th-century process from books. The prints she created were published in Warren Neidicn's book American History Reinvented; later she also did albumen prints for Lyle Rexer's book Photography's Antiquarian Avant Garde.  

Zimmerman has said of her process: "For the past twenty years I have chosen to express myself through the use of an obsolete medium: large format cameras and handmade photographic print making. These methods suit both my temperament and my aesthetic. The pace of execution is slow and meticulous. The technical aspects allow for an interesting marriage of science and intuition." 

Zimmerman's images are technically classified as still lifes but they possess an inherent sense of arrested energy; she has called them "performances of a sort rendered in the tradition of still life." They are often described as timeless as they have the look of the antique but offer images that are decidedly modern. Zimmerman begins with natural and found objects then modifies them to suit her purpose. They include such recurring images as fish, nests, old glass bottles, birds, plants and clothes. These are frozen into sinuous, humorous or eccentric shapes, some are set on fire, others are bound, wrapped or placed in unusual or surreal combinations.  

One of the hallmarks of Zimmerman's work is her ability to give ordinary things new dimensions, to make us see the everyday world from a different angle. Her images are beautiful and haunting, tonally deep and rich in the way only albumen prints can be, but with a sharp edge. She says: "I find beauty to be most keen if it is also forbidding[my images] aim is to be alluring and simultaneously daunting." 

Zimmerman's work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, San Antonio; the Harwood Museum of Art, Taos; the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities at the University of Texas, Austin and the Paine Webber Collection, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Elements of Containment at Photo Eye Gallery in Santa Fe, Contemporary Albumen Prints, Opus Gallery, New York and Recent Works at Barking Dog Pictures, New York. She has also been part of numerous group exhibitions including Sunworks at the Art Institute of Boston, Contemporary Art/Taos at the Harwood Museum, Authenticity of Memory at the Houston Center for Photography as well as shows at the Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, White Room Gallery in West Hollywood and Glendale College, Glendale, California. She also lectures and teaches workshops on alternative photographic processes. 

Acts of Nature: Photographs by Zoë Zimmerman will have a public reception on Thursday, January 18 from 5-7 pm.  Concurrent with the Harwood Museum show, the Fenix Gallery will be hosting a show of Zimmerman's photographs from January 12 through February 28. A gallery talk with the artist at the Harwood Museum is scheduled during the exhibition. 


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