BY Lynne Bentley-Kemp
In today’s world of instant gratification and software that creates images that seem much more complex than they really are, Aida Tejada comes up with a retort to the software virtuosos. Her vision articulates the effects of light and how it is captured in ways that render her subjects through time and space, not Photoshop. Her camera is a means of transport from the everyday to the interior of the soul. She uses the shutter like a paintbrush and color and light emerge as the objects of her gaze. The fact that Tejada has earned degrees in psychology and communication, and not photography, adds intrigue to the substance of her visual vocabulary. She routinely signs up for workshops to add to her already intuitive knowledge of photography. Tejada’s passion is for learning how to expand her visual vocabulary, a mission that will never end.
Much of Tejada’s workshop experience has focused on the need to acquire technical skill. At The International Center for Photography she worked with Bryan Peterson, a wonderful ‘how to’ author and teacher. With Peterson she plumbs the left-brained science of how photography works, and then takes her studies to the opposite end of the spectrum by working with Bonnie Lhotka. Lhotka is the doyenne of contemporary digital printmaking and her books, Altered Reality and Alchemy are seductive invitations to artists like Tejada to take their work into the realm of contemporary printmaking. Lhotka has been a seminal force for pushing the envelope of digital photography into installation, sculpture and the singular image.
While psychology and photography may define the perimeter of Tejada’s work, at heart she is a poet. She practices a form of magical realism that explores the edges of vision, but remains grounded by the camera itself. In seeking alternatives to reality Tejada makes the subject irrelevant. She transforms the ordinary into an aesthetic statement and nothing escapes her practiced eye. She walks the world with a heightened sense of emotion and empathy, creating poetic narratives with reflections, textures and movements. It is altogether a sophisticated vision and the eye of the child. Everything is fresh and new as her camera apprehends a jaded world and quotidian objects come under Tejada’s spell.
Handwork and craft are important elements in Tejada’s approach to ‘slow art’. The work, though emphatically not post processed through a computer, is the result of special effects. In a series that evokes the intersection of ancient pictographs and contemporary graffiti, Tejada utilizes a thick sandwich of acrylic and string to make a filter that is placed in front of the camera’s lens. Her understanding of the devices of depth of field and hyper focal distance enhances the transparent layering of the image elements. She then fuses the final image onto a variety of substrates – paper, aluminum, acrylic -through an image transfer process. Her restrained use of craft enhances the originality of the work.
Some of the most successful images are contained in the three series titled, ”Reflexion”, ‘The Window” and “Remainder”. The photographs create ambiguous suggestions of paint, graphite and other markings that might be parts of a universal history of humanity. They are like markings on a cave wall, part of the palimpsest of narratives made by humans since the beginning of recorded time. In exploring alternatives to reality, Tejada bumps up against the foundations of our existence. Do we see with our eyes or do we ‘see’ with our emotions? In all likelihood a true revelation of our world arrives with both the physical and the emotional. Tejada demonstrates that as fact. Her compositions elicit, in her words, “the footprint of our existence” as all pretense is stripped away to reveal the manifestation of spirit.
With Tejada’s energy and openness for trying out new ideas she ensures the sustainability of her art. Her developmental approach to questioning and creating is the heart of her authenticity. She imbeds her expansive cultural literacy into each image and makes it altogether unique and familiar. For her and her viewer, the work is completely liberating for the mind and the eye.
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Lynne Bentley-Kemp, PhD Instructor, Dept of Art and Art History Florida Atlantic University
A resident of Cudjoe Key, Florida and a Photography Instructor with the Department of Visual Art and Art History at Florida Atlantic University, Lynne Bentley-Kemp has had a longstanding relationship with photography and its impact upon visual literacy. Much of her involvement with the visual world has been grounded in the social and historical influences of photography. Interested in studying the impact photography has had on culture, Lynne entered the Ph.D. program in Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University in 1999 as a member of its inaugural class. Her beautifully illustrated dissertation “Recovering Eden: The Photographer in the Garden” analyzed the work of six photographers who possessed a special sensitivity to the American landscape. Since earning her PhD in 2003, Lynne has been actively advocating for the arts close to her home in Key West, Florida. Her activities have included membership on two arts related Boards, Sculpture Key West and the Studios of Key West. She has lectured, curated exhibitions and written about art for local publications and organizations. In concert with her academic and scholarly roles, Lynne works as a fine art photographer conducting technical and aesthetic research in infrared, non-silver and digital photographic techniques. Her work is exhibited nationally and is listed in numerous public and private collections.
IRREVERSIBLE featured artist AIDA TEJADA “SOLO SHOW”
Oct 13, 2012 The ArtLink Gallery
130 NW 36th St, Miami, Florida 33127
For “Short Stories,” her new solo show at the Art Link Gallery, Aida Tejada presents several series of photographic works on aluminum that range from portraits to landscapes and abstractions. In her nearly fifty works on display her palette ranges from stark monochromes to striking color sometimes within a single image. She presents startling facades upon which the skins appear to fade away to reveal the face of the everyday beneath them. For example, in the Solitude of a Mosquito, the rain-dappled figure of anonymous man is seen by the viewer while the insect of the title hovers over his face oblivious the fact it cannot draw blood from a shadow. Like this and in many other of Tejada’s pictures she weaves unusual narratives without revealing the psychology behind her imagery. In her split screened The Other Side, a woman in a green dress appears to be dialing a number on her cell phone while on the other panel an anonymous man exits the scene through a doorway. What unites the disparate images in this scene and other in her series is a palpable sense of theater, of the dramatization of common everyday occurrences. Tejada’s goal is to present works that evolve as narratives employing the quotidian as departure points for open-ended readings.