Platinum, Chemistry, and Creosote in SALT at Eye Lounge

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Tye Rabens

If you ever need a science geek to complete your Trivia Night team, consider Claire Warden, if she's in town.

"You can buy platinum from different chemical suppliers," she offers. "Platinum, actually, you can get in crystal form. It's actually red!"

The Montreal-born, ASU-educated, and L.A.-residing photographer brings the fruits of her art/science labors to eye lounge in her latest exhibition, "SALT: Studies in Preservation and Manipulation" at Eye Lounge this month.



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Tye Rabens
"SALT" in progress, a day before its Third Friday debut.
The antique, brown-and-gray images of salt-preserved plant specimens are all created usinga developing technique called Platinum Palladium print [thus, the fascination with chemistry]. 

It is a very expensive and very controlled process that suits the perfectionist in Warden, who's been working on the technique for two years, but she says it's also a way of letting go.

"I am very in control, but then at a certain point, the salt will crystallize the way it does," she says. "That's where I start to lose the control. And also, in the botanical process of making the specimen, I feel like you kind of lose the control once the plant dies."

Even those familiar with the 24-year-old's previous work will have their interest piqued: All 18 pieces in "SALT" are new, and for the first time, she is includes found objects in her exhibition -- a few of the specimens themselves, caked in salt and hung on the walls between photos. (Look out for the creosote bush suspended from the ceiling, too.) She hopes this will balance the photographs' muted colors and provide a lens into the "behind-the-scenes, methodical, deceptive nature of the work."

"The plants give a little more of the atmosphere. That was definitely something I considered," Warden says, adding with a self-deprecating laugh, "I wanted it to be just clean enough, but still kind of give you that feeling of discovery." ​

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Ryan Wolf
Claire Warden during her Third Friday opening.

​Sitting cross-legged on the gallery floor during an install break, Warden seems most enthusiastic when talking about the science behind her art.

"It's really inspired by science's attempt to preserve, and how that really can't be achieved, because living things are in a constant transitional state," she says, adding that the theme of "SALT" also touches upon this paradox of trying to preserve: "Salt is one of the most important minerals in our history. You need it to survive. Everything that's alive has salt in it. But then again, if you have too much of it, it will kill a living thing."

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Tye Rabens
Close-up of "Botanical Specimen with Salt (Unidentified No. 1)". Warden says she found the specimen in Minnesota, its bright red leaves turned monochrome by platinum print.

Many of Warden's "botanical specimens" are from Arizona, but she says she's collected everything from Minnesota autumn leaves to Caribbean coral during her travels the past few years. 

But Warden, flashing her artistic side, insists that her photographs are created by her own intuition, not found in nature.

"I definitely create them, because as soon as I find the plant I'm working with, it's transformed," she says. "Right away, it goes from a living state to an inanimate state, as part of the preservation."

SALT is on view at Eye Lounge through March 9. For more information, check out the Eye Lounge website. 


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Eye Lounge

419 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: General

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