Dissecting vulnerability through visual language is a complicated task, but it's one that artist Maryanne Braine tackles head on. Using process-based work, she explores the materiality of the photographic image. She's also constantly examining feminism, memory and the snapshot, and identity through her artistic practice.
The manipulation of the image, whether through traditional darkroom settings, digital alteration, or the physical print, is a constant source of inspiration for Braine. "The straight image is usually just the source material for the finished piece for me," she said in an interview last month, "I’ll often look at an image that I’ve taken and ask myself, 'what else can I do to this piece to really make it complete?' And often that involves adding a tactile or material experience." Braine's obsessive exploration is pushing her photographs into dynamic places. Abstracting the viewer's gaze through traditional photographic mediums is where Braine was first ignited by a passion for photography.
In high school, Braine hated most of her classes and was desperately searching for something to excite her in her education. She discovered the darkroom during her sophomore year and was instantly hooked. "I finally had found a way to communicate what I never could fully express with words," she said of her discovery. Her enthusiasm for the darkroom continued through to her undergraduate university, Earlham College, where she was given the freedom to explore photographic methods independently.
Braine continues to busy herself at Parsons' black and white darkroom. Typically starting with specific ideas and alternative mediums, Braine lets her intuition guide her in the beginning stages of a project. Following her gut and letting the idea grow is an integral part of Braine's artistic process. While she searches for ways to communicate a wide variety of themes, she begins her artistic experimentation, which she joyfully describes as 'play.'
Even though her work thrives through experimentation, Braine says she struggles with her habit of setting strict parameters for her and her work. "It's better not to be in control of everything I'm working on... Sometimes the most wonderful discoveries happen when you let go of that control and let your work simply be," she said. Certainly, this liberation of her parameters has let her most recent work explode in dynamic ways.
This body of work, as pictured here in her studio, began with Braine questioning her relationship to conventional femininity and quickly evolved into a greater exploration on vulnerability. Using images of her body and skin, the photographs are morphic self explorations. Locating oneself and one's body in the world is a visual thread that holds together much of the work. The papers and processes that Braine uses allows her to peel away parts of the images and add layers, selectively exposing parts of the original image.
These photographic objects can still be classified as 'photographs', but labeling them isn't an important part for Braine. Looking to photographers like Mariah Robertson, Brittany Nelson, and Eileen Quinlan, Braine's research is informed by the disruption of what a 'conventional photograph' should be.