• Left to Right: Northerly Light, Easterly Light, Southerly Light and Westerly Light (Antarctica)

    2009/2015

    Chromogenic prints, aluminum, lamination film

    Dimensions: 50” x 40,” each

    Edition of 3

    Installation view: Zhulong Gallery, Dallas, Texas, Solo Exhibition, 2015

    Description: On the continent of Antarctica, known as the southernmost place on Earth, traditional map and compass navigation is challenged by several factors, including the convergence of our lines of longitude and the convergence of the magnetic field. Many techniques have been developed to overcome these challenges, two of which captured Blumenfeld’s interest during her artist-in-residence on the Ice—one is known as the Grid North system, and the other is the use of an astrocompass. The Grid system correlates to the Prime Meridian, where Grid North aligns with 0-degrees longitude. The astrocompass uses a mechanical device and a complex series of settings based on the location of the instrument and its orientation to the position of a celestial body, such as the Sun. Reflecting on a fusion of these two systems, Blumenfeld oriented herself toward each of the four Grid directions while also aligning the angle of her position with that of the Sun. Using her hand-built lens-less camera and traditional large-format photographic film, Blumenfeld took an exposure at each of these four positions consecutively, recording the amount of sunlight radiating toward her from each direction. These artworks are not “pictures” of the Sun itself but are a documentation of the amount of sunlight traveling toward the film from each of the Grid directions. The light intensity in each of the four artworks differs subtly due to where the Sun was positioned in relation to each exposure. Blumenfeld’s also experienced whiteout conditions while on the Ice, where the merging of land and sky at the horizon during certain weather and light conditions challenged one’s ability to sense direction at all. This work investigates the meaning of locality and place when one is in extreme and remote environments, unable to sense one’s way.

  • 2475 Full Moons

    2009/2015

    Archival pigment prints on Harman by Hahnemühle Matt Cotton Smooth 300gsm paper, L-pins

    2475 photographs, each 4.25″ x 5.25”; approx. 132” x 444” installed

    Installation view: Solo Exhibition, Zhulong Gallery, Dallas, Texas, 2015

    Description: This installation depicts a conceptual cataloging of the 2475 full moons that have and will occur between the years 1900 and 2100, portraying the over-arching timeline in which the scientific conversation about anthropogenic climate disruption is occurring.

    Around the year 1900, scientists drew the conclusion that CO2 released into the atmosphere from industrial emissions would contribute to global climactic change. In 1957, after decades of continued theoretical modeling and published papers on the subject, the first International Geophysical Year made significant contributions to procuring climate data by establishing a monitoring system of then current and ongoing CO2 in the atmosphere as well as investigating historical CO2 measurements left within the ice record.

    Since 1958 we have expanded profoundly both the data and our understanding of the climactic effects of increasing CO2 levels (as well as other greenhouse gases), and yet the essential scientific knowledge needed to see the trajectory of human-caused climate disruption was already well established, and posited as early as 1896.

    Current scientific studies now show that by 2100 humans will see drastic effects around the world from anthropogenic climate disruption and concurrent feedback loops. This piece is derived from a single recording made from the light of the full moon in Antarctica on 09 February 2009, and consists of 2475 4×5-inch black and white prints. The “positive” exposure of this Antarctic Full Moon Light Recording (black with white center) is printed 718 times to represent all the full moons between the years 1900 to 1957. The “negative” exposure of this Antarctic Full Moon Light Recording (white with black center) is printed 1757 times to represent all the full moons between the years 1958 to 2100. These prints are hung chronologically in a grid formation, from top to bottom, left to right.

  • Installing 2475 Full Moons over 18 hours for Solo Exhibition at Zhulong Gallery, Dallas, Texas, 2015

  • Midnight Twilight (Antarctica)

    2009/2015

    Chromogenic prints, aluminum, lamination film

    25 panels 16” x 16” each; approx. 90” x 90” installed

    Description: Midnight Twilight (Antarctica) (2009/2015) depicts the time in the year in Antarctica when the season shifts from summer to autumn. After the long summer days consisting of 24 hours of light, the sun finally lowers just below the horizon for a few hours before re-emerging once again for the remainder of the day. The first time this occurred during her time on the Ice, these first hours of twilight commenced at local midnight. Blumenfeld exposed a separate piece of photographic film every hour from midnight to the following midnight using her self-built lensless cameras in order to show the subtle shifts in light.

  • Light of the Midnight Sun (Antarctica)

    2009/2015

    Chromogenic print, aluminum, lamination film

    9 1/8” x 7” x 5/8”

    Installation view: Zhulong Gallery, Dallas, Texas, Solo Exhibition, 2015

    Description: Photo-based artwork in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through her special handmade recording devices. Light of the Midnight Sun (Antarctica) recorded the natural light during the time of year when the sun hovers above the horizon at local midnight in Antarctica. Blumenfeld created this work during her 6-week artist-in-residence on the ice fields in Eastern Antarctica in 2009.

  • Light of the Midnight Sun (Antarctica)

    2009/2015

    Chromogenic print, aluminum, lamination film

    9 1/8” x 7” x 5/8”

    Description: Photo-based artwork in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through her special handmade recording devices. Light of the Midnight Sun (Antarctica) recorded the natural light during the time of year when the sun hovers above the horizon at local midnight in Antarctica. Blumenfeld created this work during her 6-week artist-in-residence on the ice fields in Eastern Antarctica in 2009.

  • Magnetism (Antarctica)

    2009/2015

    4-channel synchronized video projection with audio

    Dimensions: Variable

    Description: Earth exists in a complex field of magnetism, comprised of both the planet’s internal magnetic core and its external magnetosphere where a field of electrically charged particles becomes the active space for magnetic and electric phenomena. Into this planetary magnetic field flows solar wind, where interplay between them provides the basis for the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). While most of the solar wind particles deflect off the magnetosphere, some particles manage to break through this barrier, especially at the North and South polar regions, creating the beautiful display of auroras (aurora borealis in the Arctic and aurora australis in the Antarctic) that are luminous indications of the immense energy transfer that is occurring in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

    Magnetism (Antarctica) is a documentation of the Antarctic sky, where a 15-minute video was recorded every hour for 24 hours beginning at 9pm on February 9, 2009 (sunset). During the recording period the video camera’s digital sensor was highly affected by the space weather activity occurring within the interplanetary magnetic field, and this interference produced an unexpected visible vibration within the color field image of the sky. The variation in blue tones are due to the time of day and whether the Sun was above or below the horizon, but the motion within the blue tone is due to magnetic interference.

    The accompanying audio was recorded at the same time and is the sound component to this magnetic disturbance within our atmosphere. The audible background static, called “sferics,” is a recording of lightning strikes around the world that are traveling along the path of the earth-ionosphere waveguide. The sound that is akin to digital water droplets, called “tweeks,” is caused when the spherics radiation are ducted over larger distances in the earth-ionosphere waveguide. Occasionally the sound called “whistlers” can be heard, which is produced when radiation breaks out of the ionosphere and travels outside the space of the earth along the magnetic field—upon reentering the ionosphere it has been substantially transformed. Finally, the sound called “chorus,” which sounds like birdsong or a chorus of frogs, is from wave-particle interactions within the Earth’s magnetosphere and is the sound of the aurora itself.

  • Fractions of Light & Time: October 23, 2008 7:17PM (Location: Marfa, TX)

    Ilfochrome paper, aluminum, lamination film

    23″ x 17.5″

    Description: Photo-based piece in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a traditional camera by exposing photographic paper directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices.  Fractions of Light & Time is an ongoing series that is an ode to the thousands of fleeting moments that is “time passing”.  Isolating chance moments throughout a day, each piece is exposed to natural light for three seconds.  Bands of light on the top indicate AM exposures and bands of light at the bottom indicate PM exposures.  The exact date and time of the exposure is noted on the back of each artwork.  The artist exhibits the pieces separately or as multiples, and both in order or randomly, mirroring our own tendency to organize time in a singular, consecutive or sometimes chaotic manner.

  • Light Recording: Dawn

    2008

    Type 59 Polaroid Film

    4.25″ x 5.25″

    Description: Photo-based artwork in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing Polaroid film directly to light itself through her special handmade recording devices. Light Recording: Dawn captured the light of the sun as it was rising.

  • Light Recording: Midday

    2008

    Type 59 Polaroid Film

    4.25″ x 5.25″

    Description: Photo-based artwork in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing Polaroid film directly to light itself through her special handmade recording devices. Light Recording: Midday captured the light of the sun when it was at the midpoint of day’s light.

  • Light Recording: Dusk

    2008

    Type 59 Polaroid Film

    4.25″ x 5.25″

    Description: Photo-based artwork in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing Polaroid film directly to light itself through her special handmade recording devices. Light Recording: Dusk captured the light of the sun as it was setting.

  • Moving Light: Spring 2005

    2005

    Projected Installation (01’35”, looped, silent, DVD)

    Dimensions Variable

    Edition of 8

    Description: In Moving Light: Spring 2005, Blumenfeld documented the 93 days between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice, the days in the year that comprise the season known as spring in the northern hemisphere.  At the exact moment of civil sunset on March 20th (equinox) Blumenfeld, using a handmade light-recording device, recorded a two-second exposure of the amount of sunlight present at that moment directly onto a single sheet of film.  For the subsequent 92 days, she documented the sunlight at that exact time onto separate sheets of film.  The 93 still images were then animated so that light’s varying intensity would be visible through motion.  The piece moves as a consequence of the sun’s daily and subtle shifts in intensity; as time moves toward the summer solstice (June 21st) and the sun approaches its northern most point in the sky, the days gets longer and the sun stays brighter later in the day, and so the viewer watches the intensity of sunlight increase.

  • Light Recording: Greatest Lunar Apogee/Perigee of 2004

    2004

    Chromogenic prints, aluminum panels, lamination film

    15 panels, 55″ x 20″ each; approx. 55″ x 342″ installed

    Installation view: RULE, Denver, Colorado, Solo Exhibition, 2006

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Light Recording: Greatest Apogee/Perigee of 2004 documented the greatest Lunar New Moon Apogee and Full Moon Perigee—the time during the moon’s imperfect elliptical rotation around the earth when the moon is at its closest and its farthest away from the earth over consecutive new and full moons, respectively. This piece recorded the amount of moonlight during each of the 15 nights between the year’s most extreme apogee/perigee cycle, which occurred in June of 2004.

  • Light Recording: Total Lunar Eclipse [October 27, 2004]

    2004

    Chromogenic prints, aluminum panels, lamination film

    36 panels, 15″ x 15″ each; approx. 46″ x1 85.5″ installed

    Installation view: DiverseWorks Art Space, Houston, Texas, Solo Exhibition, 2004

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Light Recording: Total Lunar Eclipse [October 27, 2004] documented the entire four hours of the diminishing and reappearing light of the full moon while it was being eclipsed by the earth’s shadow during the total lunar eclipse of October 27th, 2004.  Blumenfeld recorded the light every seven minutes during the eclipse and configured them consecutively from left to right, starting from the top row. This piece was recorded in the Galisteo Basin in New Mexico.

  • Moving Light: Lunation 1011

    2004

    Projected Installation (00:03:27, looped, silent, DVD)

    Dimensions Variable

    Edition of 8

    Installation view: DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas, Solo Exhibition, 2004

    Description:  In September and October of 2004, Blumenfeld went to Marfa, Texas as Ballroom Marfa’s inaugural artist-in-residence.  Through the generosity and non-financial support of the McDonald Observatory, Blumenfeld was granted the rare opportunity to work on site up on the main peak of the observatory in one of their astronomer’s houses.  During her two-month stay, Blumenfeld created her very first video-based installation, titled Moving Light: Lunation 1011.

    Lunation is the mean time between two successive new moons, and the lunation number is calculated from the first new moon that occurred in 1923. This piece, titled 1011 after the actual lunation cycle, documented the waxing and waning of moonlight over a 30-day period, from new moon to new moon.

    Recorded through an altered telescope and self-built recording devices, Blumenfeld documented the varying intensities of light radiating from the moon onto handheld photographic film.  The resulting images portray not only the changing quantity of moonlight in its nightly phase, but also the artists own hand which, in holding each piece of film over the long two-minute exposures, moved slightly from her own heartbeat and body’s subtle sway.  The relationship between technology and the human implementing it is expressed in the completed video installation, where each of the exposures taken over the 30 days were animated in sequence to the rhythmic pulse of her own heartbeat to produce a moving account of the lunar cycle.

  • Grouping of 9 works from the series Fractions of Light & Time

    Ilfochrome paper, aluminum, lamination film

    13.5″ x 19″ each

    Installation view: Inde/Jacobs, Marfa, Texas, 2007

    Description: Photo-based piece in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic paper directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices.  Fractions of Light & Time is an ongoing series that is an ode to the thousands of fleeting moments that is “time passing”.  Isolating chance moments throughout a day, each piece is exposed to natural light for three seconds.  Bands of light on the top indicate AM exposures and bands of light at the bottom indicate PM exposures.  The exact date and time of the exposure is noted on the back of each artwork.  The artist exhibits the pieces separately or as multiples, and both in order or randomly, mirroring our own tendency to organize time in a singular, consecutive or sometimes chaotic manner.

  • Light Recording: Dawn

    2002

    Ilfochrome paper, aluminum panels, lamination film

    28 Panels 23.5″ x 19.5″ each; installed: 95.5″ x 138.75″

    Installation view: Galerie der Stadt Mainz-Brückenturm, Mainz, Germany, 2002

    Collection of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

    Description: Light Recording: Dawn documented the sun’s light at sunrise; exposures were taken from just before the sun rose (black panels) until the first moment of light in the sky (bottom row of panels).

  • Light Recording: Meditation on Radiance No. 3

    2002

    Chromogenic prints, aluminum panels, lamination film

    35″ x 45″

    Collection of the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

  • Light Graph: Reflection for Muted Skies

    2001

    294 4×5-inch Type 59 Polaroid Film

    102″ x 54.5″

    Installation view: Visual Studies Workshop Gallery, Rochester, NY, 3-Person Exhibition, 2003

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Light Graph: Reflection for Muted Skies was created as a site-specific work for her exhibition at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art in 2001.  Each Polaroid was exposed under the blue skies of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The completed installation rested directly on the floor and was meant to act as a reflection for the gray, rainy skies of Portland, Oregon.

  • Light Leaks Variation No. 18 (brief meditation on splitting light particles)

    2001

    6 4×5-inch Type 59 Polaroids, 16 clear pushpins

    4.25″ x 30″

    Install View: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon, Solo Exhibition, 2001

    Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Fine Art, Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Installed in a corner of the museum where daylight was able to traverse two walls that did not meet, Light Leaks Variation No. 18 (brief meditation on splitting light particles) dealt with the conundrum of “recorded” light being intersected by “actual” light.

  • Light Graph: Twilight

    2001

    609 4×5-inch Type 59 Polaroid Film, 660 clear pushpins

    140.75″ x 81.25″

    Installation view: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon, Solo Exhibition, 2001

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a traditional camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Light Graph: Twilight recorded the light during twilight; the Polaroids at the bottom of the piece documented the sunlight as it was diminishing and the black Polaroids above documented night after the sun had set.

  • Light Graph: Winter Solstice

    2000

    625 4×5-inch Type 59 Polaroid film, 676 clear pushpins

    97″ x 122″

    Installation view: Santa Fe Art Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2001

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a traditional camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Light Graph: Winter Solstice documented the amount of daylight present on the shortest day of our year.  Beginning just before sunrise, the artist exposed a separate piece of Polaroid film for 2 seconds every minute until just after sunset. The artwork reads like a calendar of the day’s light: sunrise appears on the left side of the installation, midday in the middle and sunset on the right side of the installation. The Polaroids are installed sequentially in vertical rows, top to bottom, left to right, such that the Polaroid at the far top left marks dawn and the Polaroid at the far bottom right marks dusk. From the first Polaroid on the top left and following the recordings downward and then across in rows you are witnessing the increase of light each minute as the run rose higher in the sky and increased in brightness. The white section in the middle depicts midday when the Sun is at its brightest and where occasional darkening of Polaroids indicates cloud cover dimming the recordable light. Sunset appears on the right side of the piece, where the darkening Polaroids mark the Sun’s decreasing light as it lowers toward the horizon. The last Polaroid on the bottom right ends astronomical twilight. This project was generously funded by the Creative Capital Foundation and the Polaroid Corporation.

  • Light Leaks Variation No. 13 (meditation on evolution)

    1999

    56 4×5-inch Type 59 Polaroid film, 72 clear pushpins

    31.25″ x 34.25″

    Installation view: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland, Oregon, Solo Exhibition, 2001

    Collection: The Polaroid Collection

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices.  In Light Leaks Variation No. 13 Blumenfeld composed the images according to an intuitive rather than a documentary perspective. At this phase of her work, she was still interested in exploring ideas about light that could not be directly represented or documented.  This piece was acquired by The Polaroid Collection and is published in both editions of The Polaroid Book published by Taschen.

  • Light Leaks Variation No. 8 (meditation on light as a wave)

    1999

    32 4×5-inch Type 54 Polaroid film, 45 clear pushpins

    21″ x 31.75″

  • Exhibition view, from left to right:

    Robert Ryman: Untitled #33, 1959, Oil on preprimed stretched cotton canvas, 44″ x 44″ x 2″

    Sol LeWitt: Steel Grid 3 x 3 x 3, 1979, Baked enamel on steel, 11″ x 11″ x 11″

    Erika Blumenfeld: Light Leaks Variation No. 4 4 [+(3 seconds x 13) + – (3 seconds x 13): meditation on dawn], 1999, 65 4×5-inch Type 54 Polaroid film, wood panel, archival adhesive and Plexiglas box, 24.75″ x 50.5″ x 1.5″

    Group exhibition: Case Studies: From the Bureau of Contemporary Art, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, November 2010 to March 2011, Curated by Laura Addison

  • Light Leaks Variation No. 2 (2,700 seconds of the setting sun)

    1998

    18 4×5-inch Type 54 Polaroid film, wood panel, archival adhesive

    35.25″ x 10.5″

  • Light Leaks Variation No. 1 (903 seconds of a quickly approaching storm)

    1998

    42 4×5-inch Type 54 Polaroid film, wood panel, archival adhesive

    27.75″ x 29.25″

    Description: Photo-based installation in which Blumenfeld documented the phenomenon of light without a camera by exposing photographic film directly to light itself through special handmade recording devices. Light Leaks Variation No. 1 was Blumenfeld’s first piece in the “Light Recordings” series, and it began her exploration of documenting light.  Having just discovered a light leak in her adapted camera, she decided to test the parameters of the process.  Exposing a single piece of Polaroid film starting with a zero exposure time (no light) and increasing the exposure time by 1 second with each new piece of film, she then push-pinned the pictures to the wall to see the gradual changes.  As she built this piece, a blizzard blew into Santa Fe, leading her to realize that she was always documenting light under particular atmospheric conditions, and that these specific occurrences must be captured on film. It began her questioning into the nature

    of light phenomena and of the photographic medium.

Light Recordings:

Light is truly one of the great wonders of our universe. Seemingly everywhere, and every when, it is but always fleeting. The desire to catch light and to know something of its essence underlies the curiosity and poetics of the arts and the sciences across the ages. So much of our biology and sensory experiences are perfectly attuned to specific frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum: visual, audio, thermal. One can imagine light as the great meeting between the ineffable and the tangible: through light we meet and embody the vastness of the cosmos.

The ability of wavelengths of the visible light spectrum to be emitted or absorbed by various conditions and substances in space and our own atmosphere form the basis of the existence of color. Our beautiful blue sky, the yellow sun at midday, the orange-red hues at sunset sparkling across an ocean, the vibrant rainbows and the mysterious aurora borealis are all expressions of the phenomena of light bending, reflecting, and refracting so as to reveal a beautiful enigmatic palette of colors. My inquiry into to the nature of light and my curiosity about the phenomenological world arose when I was a small child. I would ask my parents probing question about the world around me, such as whether they saw the exact same color yellow with their eyes that I saw with mine. Something in me knew this there was a remarkable story within the phenomena of light: in fact, my father tells me that ‘light’ was my very first word as an infant.

Of course, I am not alone in my obsession with light and our experience of it—it has caught the fascination of artists, scientists, philosophers, and creative thinkers as far back as we can see. My own intrigue lies in the question, what is the nature of light? My curiosity does not rest in the answer to this question, however, but soars in the stream of questions that continue to arise in its wake. Intellectually, we have formulated an understanding of the workings of light, but it is in wondering about our direct experience with light that is where my Light Recordings work begins.

When I first began working with the photographic medium in 1987, I was interested in imaging things as they appeared to me “in nature”: landscapes, the figure, still lives, and subtle abstractions of the like. Yet at a certain point in my early photographic practice, something in me shifted for a time; I was no longer compelled to take photographic representations of the things I saw with my eye. In 1998, after eleven years of working only in the photographic medium, a persistent conceptual question arose in my studio that I had to reckon with: wasn’t the thing itself truer to its own nature than the photographic representation of it? Why make an optical reproduction of a sunset, or a person or an object when the real thing is happening right in front of you? Why represent anything at all when you can have an experience of it directly? These questions led me to discontinue photographing altogether for several months, during which time I pursued my interest in light through luminous pigments in paintings and printmaking, but I eventually came back to the photographic medium through an unexpected discovery.

Some of the most potent moments in the studio are when it feels as though a medium is failing you, and the creative existential crisis these moments propel can be valuable times of unforeseen innovation. It was in this way that I discovered a method to record the nature of light I had so longed for. I was making an adaptor to fit my 4×5-ich Polaroid back into a 19th century double-bellows studio camera thinking I would try ‘one last thing’ before I might give up on photography altogether. When I completed the fabrication, I installed the adaptor in the camera to test it for light leaks—often considered the photographer’s nemesis—by exposing a piece of Polaroid film without opening the lens. When I pealed back the Polaroid’s development enclosure to reveal the image, I found that I indeed had a light leak and it was stunning: a perfectly arced gradation of light leaking across the film. The image was everything I was seeking, at that time, from a photograph: a documentation of light itself.

I immediately began exploring the light leaks potential and I have worked with this process now since 1998, building my own cameras in different sizes and configurations that replicate the original light leak. The Light Recordings process pairs photography down to its most essential ingredients: light and light sensitive material. This became the fundamental starting point for my Light Recordings work, and compelled me to image my experiences of daily natural phenomena of light that occurred: the first light of day, light as it interacts with a winter blizzard, the shifting light as the sun sets, the light of lunar cycles, the incremental shifting of light through spring, the solstices and equinoxes. With light as both my medium and subject, the possible phenomena to capture is literally endless: for in every moment, light is new.

—Erika Blumenfeld