Light Bright

The photogram, or “cameraless photography,” one of the most primitive photographic techniques, first gained attention in the 1930s through the experimentation of artists like Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso and others, who made images by placing and exposing objects directly on light-sensitive material, leaving a negative image behind. More esoteric still is Kirlian photography, which uses a high-voltage source to create a halo effect around the image. In modern times, California artist Robert Buelteman has updated that technique to create large-scale color prints of plant life. A small collection of his work goes on display today in Signs of Life: Photograms by Robert Buelteman, an exhibit presented in collaboration with Walker Fine Art at the Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street.

“He’s abandoning using a camera but still pulling off a photographic image,” explains Kim Manajek, associate director of exhibitions, art and interpretation at the gardens. “The plants are laid right on top of a metal plate, and then he electrifies the whole thing with 60,000 volts. Once he’s captured the image, he goes back and uses a fiber-optic brush to create highlights by hand. They’re really cool images; they feel like they’re actually emanating light — which is basically what photography does.”

Signs of Life opens with a reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. (including an artist talk at 6:30) in the DBG’s Gates Garden Court Gallery; the show is free with regular admission and runs through August 3. Get information at botanicgardens.org or call 720-865-3500. RSVP for the reception at [email protected]
Wed., May 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m.; May 7-Aug. 3, 2014