In the world of pristine photographic prints, some people might consider it a heresy to print images on fabric and then sew on top of the image with thread. Kerby Smith finds it quite liberating. He has been photographing for over 50 years, and has exhibited in a wide range of venues. For most of that time he printed on paper, matted and framed his photographs under glass. But, he was never comfortable seeing the image behind glass. He prefers the up close and personal relationship the viewer gets with the image when there is no glass barrier between them.
Before archival ink jet printers, Smith experimented with printing black and white photographs on canvas with a silver coating. He developed the canvas using garbage cans of developer, stop bath and fixer. He washed the printed canvas with a garden hose running into a plastic barrel. Then he would stretch the canvas for gallery presentation.
Today, in creating his digital images, he begins with a photographic capture which provides a first look at the scene. Then in his digital darkroom, he explores the possibilities of where the image can take himself and the viewer. Smith says “I want to take the imagery to a place where it will put a smile on the viewer’s face when he or she interacts with it. I often move a few degrees off reality to create the view I imagine. Sometimes, it is with an extended palette or color range, other times it is simply a change of viewpoint or scale”.
Smith believes that in adding stitching to the image, he is able to expand the tactile experience for both the photographer and the viewer. He likes the added intimacy of working with the image under the needle of his sewing machine and believes it adds another level of connection. In the process of stitching the three layers of fabric together with thread, he feels he sees and interacts with the image in way that is not possible with simply printing a photograph on paper. The choice and use of thread itself is an additional statement of artistic intent by the image’s creator.
Fabric, like life, is a creative weave with ebb and flow. The three strands of his art: imagery, fabric and thread coalesce to create a vision of whimsy that give the viewer both a visual and tactile experience that goes beyond the original two-dimensional photographic image.
For instance, in the piece “Running Shadow on Hwy. 99”, it was late afternoon and he was fascinated by the changing image of his MINI Cooper’s shadow on the hedge rows between the South and North bound lanes of California’s Highway 99. He captured the running shadow with his iPhone’s camera. The images were then manipulated and digitally printed on canvas. Then they were stitched in a pattern reminiscent of traditional quilts. Smith says, ”The finished photo quilt also begs the question of what kind of quilt Edward Muybridge would have made if he could have transferred his revolutionary 19th Century photography technology onto fabric in the 21st Century”.
Endangered Species Girl Reading
Running Shadow Hwy. 99
Stone Stretch Ghost