Visual Arts

Lisa Garness Mallory Wants You to Come See Her Etchings — on Photographs

You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we take a look at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

Denver native Lisa Garness Mallory had been a commercial insurance administrator for over two decades when she abruptly quit her day job in 2009 to pursue a nagging passion that she could no longer ignore. In the process of chasing her dreams, she created what she calls a new form of art: etched photography.

Although Mallory has an associate’s degree in fine art, she had no formal training in photography — which made her decision to pursue art full-time a little nerve-racking. Then again, Mallory was also in a familiar world: Both of her parents were “very artist,” she says, recalling the art projects she did with her mother while rowing up. By the time Mallory could color with a crayon, she was telling everyone who’d listen that she was an artist. And during her early adulthood, Mallory started taking pictures — just for fun at first.

In 2008, though, Mallory discovered digital photography, and researched the subject extensively. A year later, she decided it was finally time to pursue her lifelong dream of being an artist. “I felt like I was never going to be a good-enough painter to make a living, but I still loved fine art,” Mallory explains. With digital photography, she thought she could combine photography and painting.

“One night, it just came into my thoughts,” she says of her idea to use sewing needles to scratch off the emulsion on one of her photographs. The result of this hand-etching was like nothing Mallory had seen before, she recalls. Soon she discovered that she could also use woodcarving tools to create these etched photos.

Mallory's process today starts with taking pictures – she usually opts for macro-shots – and printing them on paper or canvas. Then she takes her tools and scratches ink off the areas she wants to enhance and enlighten, using the natural lines in the photos to add depth.

Creating etched photography takes time — usually lots of time, depending on the image and its size. Some of Mallory’s bigger pieces have taken up to two months to complete. “I’m doing this by hand, and I have to give my hands a break,” she says. Even so, she doesn't mind the labor-intensive process because “I love detail,” she says. 

Mallory’s work is noteworthy for its depth, color and shape. “I want my work to have a three-dimensional effect,” she explains, describing her pieces as “contemporary and yet edgy.”

Subject matter varies from Westerns to wildlife, flowers and mountain landscapes; still, all of Mallory’s pieces  are connected by a distinct region and grounded in nature. “I’m a Colorado girl,” Mallory says. And it shows.

“We live in one of the best states for beautiful scenery,” Mallory continues. But while she'll continue exploring natural subjects, she also plans to experiment with urban landscapes, particularly downtown Denver at night. “I make a lot of my images on the darker side because it’s more conducive to my etching, and putting the light with my lines where they need to go to enhance the piece,” she says.

Mallory has won six international art awards since debuting her etched photography in 2009. She’s won awards in local shows, too, and has been featured in publications such as 5280, Colorado Life and Denver Life. In 2014, Mallory was a featured artist on Rocky Mountain PBS.

“Currently my work can be seen in the Rocky Mountain PBS 60th Anniversary exhibition at Denver Public Library,” she notes; that show will be be up through March 31. The artist also has fifteen pieces hanging in a solo exhibit at One2One Hair Studio, 1400 East Hampden Avenue. For more information, visit Mallory’s website

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Jamie Siebrase is a Denver-based freelance writer, and author of the forthcoming Falcon Guide Hiking Wth Kids, Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families.
Contact: Jamie Siebrase