Landscapes: Ann Matlock and Corinne Dune'
When: Through Feb. 24 (Artists talk: 1 p.m. Saturday)
Where: D. Berman Gallery, 1701 Guadalupe St.
On first encounter, one is tempted to guess that Corinne Dune's contemplative
photographs are either historical artifacts or fine-art prints
created by some low-tech process. After all, in this digital age,
her faint, delicate images on carefully chosen paper employ none of
the bombastic potential of contemporary, high-tech photography.
But no, the French-born, Austin-based Dune, who spent several years
living in Mexico with her novelist husband Christopher Cook, has gone
back in time to rescue the earliest techniques in her field. ``The
first images obtained by inventors of photographic processes in the
19th century have always fascinated me,'' said the subdued Dune in
her unassuming North Central Austin home. ``I find in them something
naively receptive to the unknown."
To Dune, early photographs tell us about our current habits of looking.
``Charged with spontaneous mystery, they reveal within the mundane
what otherwise would have remained hidden -- obscured by those habits
which restrict our perception of the world, so that we see only what
we expect to see,'' she said.
Seeing the world, and especially the arid portions of North America,
with something like pre-photographic eyes sets Dune's optical experiences
apart from those of most Sunday snappers. ``My landscape pictures
were slowly recorded with a homemade pinhole camera obscura, with
only the minimum elements required to make a silent record: a tin
box, a pinhole, a film and three to five minutes of sunlight exposure,''
she said. ``The pinhole camera allows one to take pictures in another
time, a lot `slower' time than we are accustomed in seeing things."
A craftsman as well as an artist, Dune relishes the details of old-fashioned
photography. ``The handmade aspect of my work is so important,'' she
said, ``whether I make my own camera, my own negatives on paper or
my own emulsion on the final print, it acts upon the image. The variations
in the chemical amounts, the way the emulsion is laid on the paper,
along with the unforeseen imperfections, can reveal a very different
image than the one in the original negative. ``There is a very
appealing aspect of discovery in working by hand." Dune believes she
is getting a true, uncorrected image that way. ``Perhaps I take an
unconventional direction when I favor the roughest pinhole camera
devices or the slowest techniques to make a picture, but I like to
view the whole image with distortion at the edges and the movement
revealed in long exposures,'' she said.
Dune carries her heedfulness into the final stages of creating prints.
``I appreciate the skill of handwork required to make good prints,''
she said. ``I try to experience the most basic photographic image,
the most simple image preceding those modified by modern technical
improvements which make the image conform to conventional social and
economic needs and expectations, which restrict it to a predictable
vision." Still, Dune is no purist. She is not above introducing nonhistorical
materials. ``During the past six years I have been experimenting
with pigment processes, making gum dichromates and carbon prints,''
she said. ``While these processes are rooted in the 19th century,
I enjoy using contemporary painting materials, carefully choosing
the highest quality and most permanent papers and pigment. Even at
that, I still permit the sunlight and photographic device to make
One reason Dune's visions of canyons, ruins and isolated plants hold
the eye is the unspoken cultural context. ``I had read somewhere
about one difference between art in America and art in Europe -- that
American artists deal with space while European artists deal with
history,'' she said. ``It is an apt observation in relation to my
landscapes of America, for they do talk of time and history. Like
if my mind was not shaped wide enough to apprehend the New World's
large territory without referring to history."