Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Sign and The Signified

'Could a photograph be something that you have scanned; is that a type of photograph?' J. Parker Valentine posed this question to me upon my invitation to contribute to this project, and I realized the complexities of answering yes or no. I once taught an experimental drawing class to high school students, and told them that anything really could be a drawing except a photograph. This distinction was so clear to me before, and now as I said in my introduction, I believe these photographs are fragments, drawings, sketches, or evidence. Valentine’s practice embodies these ideas of traces, fragmentation, and how an object or work could be a constellation of inspiration more than a singular idea. Objects lean or curl in Valentine’s arrangements, and the paper becomes as much of a three-dimensional object as the support structure it happens to be placed on. Valentine’s surfaces are filled with abstract and organic graphite marks where the ghosts of heads or profiles always turn up in her drawn surfaces. However, in the photographs here she is able to use the properties of light, as an abstract mark-making tool in the same way the black charcoal would be in one of her drawn surfaces. But for Valentine, it is not just the gestural and abstract marks that are significant, it is also the connection between the sign and the signified, an interaction that photography and the photograph know all too well. The image can both represent an individual thing as well as be a symbol for the idea of the thing, an ambiguous relationship that creates this paradoxical bond between the photograph and the object.

[images: J. Parker Valentine]