Meghann Riepenhoff: Littoral Drift at Yossi Milo Gallery
Words by Diana McClure/ Photography by Anders Jones
Meghann Riepenhoff’s latest photographic artwork is made in collaboration with the natural world. Her “living prints” are baptized through a process that uses rainstorms, snow, ocean waves and other earthly elements as central to the development of her one-of-a-kind prints. The body of work, titled Littoral Drift, employs a cameraless, cyanotype photographic process, using paper, light and chemistry to magnificent effect.
Riepenhoff begins by coating sheets of paper with a homemade cyanotype emulsion; a mix of chemicals, producing a cyan blue print that can be altered to create a range of blue tonalities. In addition to submerging the paper in a variety of forms of water, the interaction of sunlight, sand and salt with the chemicals results in staggeringly voluptuous abstractions in a wide-ranging palette of blues and white.
A sublime familiarity can be found in the large-scale works featured in the exhibition. Without even knowing Riepenhoff's process, ocean vistas and NASA style topographical views of planet earth, as well as batik and tie-dye traditions of printing, come to mind. The added knowledge of how her images come to life, only increases the wonder found in the organic, natural and earthy feel of it.
In the final "fixing" stages of her chemical process, Riepenhoff leaves any lingering photosensitive chemistry in tact, setting the stage for future shifts in color and texture over time (sometimes a result of salt residue). This artistic choice echoes the element of chance found in the historical processes of early photography and science used in the work, as well as her own interest as an artist in the theme of impermanence.
Many of the works are comprised of a grid or grouping of images. Single pieces, diptychs and triptychs within one frame, and large-scale works comprised of multiple cyanotypes, create complete works of art that are structurally compelling. In, Littoral Drift #464 (Bainbridge Island, WA 12.07.16, Seven Simulated Waves, Freezing and Melting), 2016, 48 cyanotypes at 19"x24" each, are presented as a grid at the size of 113 1/4" x 190 3/8". The only unframed work in the exhibition, it is also the largest piece; a stunning abstraction of what could be crashing waves, ocean spray and seam foam. A textured sprinkling of white dots covers one area of the piece; perhaps salt crystals in the mist of metamorphosis.
All of the works on view are named for their location, date, and the atmospheric conditions under which they were made, a nod to nature as Riepenhoff's collaborator.