Sheila Metzner installation at The Visual Arts Museum
Three more days to catch the retrospective of Sheila Metzner’s work at the Visual Arts Museum at The School of Visual Arts.
Metzner, who began photographing in the mid-1970s, has always been resolutely her own person whether her work was in fashion or not, and thirty years on her work seems even more distinctive and personal than ever. Working not so much in the Victorian style of photography but in the Victorian, Japonais inflections of Whistler and Sargent, Metzner has mastered most every genre of photography – portraits, floral abstraction, travel, the nude, fashion, urban landscapes, still life, and family pictures – to name a few.
The show contains approximately 100 prints hung salon style and all made by the Fresson printing process - a rare method of color printing that renders characteristically diffused images with remarkable tonal range and color saturation. The process uses layered oil pigments in gelatin and requires between four to seven separate negatives, yielding luminous, glowing colors and a softened, painterly effect. With its chemistry a tightly held secret and production highly limited, Metzner is one of the few photographers in the world who has consistently used the process throughout her career.
Of particular note are the photographs from one of Metzner’s latest series “36 Views of Brooklyn Bridge”, a response to the famous woodblock prints “36 Views of Mount Fuji” by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai. Shot in both black and white and color and from numerous vantage points, the bridge dissolves and coalesces before our eyes – as Metzner explores the infinite photographic possibilities.
The one sad note in the show is that it quietly incorporates the photographer’s own memorial to her late husband, Jeffrey, a talented artist, teacher, and art director who died unexpectedly earlier this year. Metzner’s many portraits of her husband taken throughout her photographic career comprise their own loving “Views of a Modern Man” as Jeffrey – always the prototypical New Yorker – subjects himself to his wife’s inspection. His good nature and Sheila Metzner’s complete lack of cynicism are the twin spirits of this unusual and wonderful show.