Liz Hager and the Digital MetalType Medium

By , September 16, 2008

Today, our guest blogger is my multi-talented COO, Elaine Triber. Here is what she is interested in right now:

Liz Hager is a versatile mixed media artist who often uses non-traditional materials and processes in the pursuit of artistic statement. As a result, I find her work unusual—because she prints largely on metal, it looks different from a lot of art out there. Her images are witty and imaginative and I always become engaged in the story her work is telling.

I first met Liz nearly 20 years ago in the software business, just after she moved to California from New York. I was intrigued when I learned three years ago that she was leaving a 25+ year career in the corporate world, to pursue a lifelong dream of working fulltime as an artist.

Liz Hager, “Lily #2, Buenos Aires,” 2006, Digital MetalType ©2008 Liz Hager

Liz Hager, “Lily #2, Buenos Aires,” 2006, Digital MetalType ©2008 Liz Hager

Liz has been photographing the world since she was a teenager. She was formally trained as a painter and art historian, so she has a vocabulary that allows her to broadly quote cultural references. She’s also a relentless experimenter, who wouldn’t be satisfied working in just one medium.

 Liz Hager, “Poppy #1, SF,” 2006, Digital MetalType ©2008 Liz Hager

Liz Hager, “Poppy #1, SF,” 2006, Digital MetalType ©2008 Liz Hager

In her first collection of work, “Botanica,” Liz explored the “systems” of nature—i.e. circulatory, sexual, “skin” — by photographing flowers, leaves and seeds through a digital micro lens. At that range, an otherwise stunning poppy or orchid becomes otherworldly, at times menacing. As a whole, the 14 prints in the “Botanica” collection prompt viewers to think about the huge variety of form and pattern in nature. In an unusual move, Liz digitally printed, not on paper, but on copper and other metals, imbuing the pieces with another source of light and color. Her collection of Daguerreo-types was the inspiration for this process; in fact, in an acknowledgement of the importance of the influence of Daguerre, one of the inventors of photography, Liz coined the term “Digital MetalType” to describe her prints.

Liz Hager, “The Muse,” from True Nature Collection, 2008, Digital MetalType ©Liz Hager

This past spring, Liz took her work a step farther in the show “Narratives & Embellishments.” Her collection—“True Nature”—consisted of 9 separate, yet related, folios, which she digitally printed on thin sheets of copper. On one side of each folio spread, the artist printed an original photomontage “snapshot”—a moment in the life of an imaginary character—through her own botanical photographs combined with images culled from her personal library of 19th century photographs. On the other side, she printed graphics and text, a story that she wrote to enhance the richness of the characters created by the images. Although there was a grain of historical truth in each story, Liz also wove in fantasy, or made up elements, which added another dimension in our perception of each character. As a finishing touch, she stitched each folio down the center with copper thread, thus adopting a pseudo-book construction. The folios were displayed individually, as if they had been cut from a book.

The “True Nature” collection operates on many levels. I appreciated the consistency of her references to the Victorian era. As a whole, the book emulates a certain kind of popular Victorian picture book and the printing on copper references Victorian era photography both in terms of images and process. The warm brown, luminous quality of the copper sheets was unexpected and extremely pleasing.

For her latest installation piece, “The Fires of Ignorance, ” Liz took a temporary hiatus from copper. Currently on display as part of the exhibition “Banned & Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship,” Liz chose to interpret the several public burnings of Harry Potter books earlier in this decade by Evangelical groups. Playing with an alternate meaning of the word “recover,” Liz covered the outside of the book with a match-stick design based on a woven textile pattern. She created additional pages for the book, which referenced other writers’ thoughts on censorship. The “saved book” rises from the pile of ashes of Harry Potter books Liz actually burned for the project.

Liz Hager, “The Fires of Ignorance,” (inside), 2008, mixed media © Liz Hager. Photo courtesy Michael Bingham.

Liz Hager, “The Fires of Ignorance,” (inside), 2008, mixed media © Liz Hager. Photo courtesy Michael Bingham.

Liz Hager, “The Fires of Ignorance,” (outside), 2008, mixed media © Liz Hager. Photo courtesy Michael Bingham.

Liz Hager, “The Fires of Ignorance,” (outside), 2008, mixed media © Liz Hager. Photo courtesy Michael Bingham.

When I spoke with her last week, Liz was back in the studio focusing on mixed-media images on distressed copper. I’m looking forward to story these pieces have to tell. and I hope you enjoy her art as much as I do!

In addition to making art, Liz designs knotted and printed rugs. She writes about art, design and culture for the blog Venetian Red. You definitely need to check out her work at Liz Hager, and her blog Venetian Red

Jane Antonacci

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