Christine Elfman

Objects & Apparitions

Elfman’s photographic work explores the temporal wane of objects, images, and memory. Color slips from the surface of paper, subjects become shadows, recognition fades into lore. Using the anthotype process, her images develop slowly: sitting outside for a month, the sun bleaches paper saturated with light-sensitive dahlia, daisy, elderberry, and lily dyes. Once complete, it’s a race against the clock: these photographs will continue to fade throughout the exhibition from the light that allows them to be seen. Elfman’s photographs on display are made from arrangements of objects from Ithaca College’s study collections, and draw from the compositions of vanitas still-life paintings, a 16th century style of Dutch painting which negotiated the existential meanings of desire and mortality. When paired with fixed silver gelatin prints, these images emphasize a tension between the archival impulse and ephemerality of photography and the specimens themselves. Over time, objects and images become evidence of nothing but the impossible desire for permanence. Constructed by her grandfather, Elfman’s frames too bear the legends of lineage, made from a coffin maker’s walnut given to Elfman’s great-great-grandfather. Emphasizing the tension between recognition and entropy, the works offer a rare opportunity to witness the constant cycle of growth and decay, as the images are continuously made anew as they decline. While the gaze of the viewer witnesses the gradual destruction of the image, the photographs begin to mimic the shape-shifting apparitions of recollection and reminiscence.