At first glance, Dan Boardman’s new series 2014 might appear to be a digital mash-up of sampled cartoons, images jacked from Google searches, and stock photography outtakes. In our current era where photographic truth is often more commonly questioned than taken for granted, it’s easy to assume his work contains some level digital manipulation, perhaps commenting on its permeation into so many facets of everyday life. But Boardman’s playful melted creations are surprisingly made by hand, painstakingly, in camera, with barely any adjustments in Photoshop, and reference vintage cinematic tricks more than those associated with any proclaimed “digital revolution.” These images, which can appear cut up, composited, and sometimes broken into 4-panel grids, ultimately address his ideas about photography’s ability to authentically represent reality, while reawakening his own affinity to the medium.
Boardman uses an entirely analog process of masking negatives, shooting multiple pictures on a single frame, and blending unrelated scenes as if digitally collaged. His photographs begin as drawings, at 4x5, and 8x10 inches to match the size of their negatives. Using his self-proclaimed “limited illustrative abilities,” he combines these simple drawings in over 100 masks with back paper, black tape and acetate. He’s left with masks for each area as a different exposure, which all come together to make a single image. This layered process often takes weeks to finish, and leave the viewer with a swarm of visual confusion.
So what’s the significance of this tripped out visual mess? For Boardman, it's an attempt to understand photography’s ability to showcase psychological and emotional eccentricities. “Behind all of my photographs,” he says, “are questions about the human experience. I am concerned with the present ‘in body’ experience I know, the historical precedent of the world we all have inherited, and the legacy of the place that continues after we die. Photography’s inescapable accuracy and constant slippage from authenticity are driving concerns in my photographic process.”
This comes across most clearly "2014"s tendency to confuse, distort and reconfigure everyday scenes. In one image, a faded C. Elegan silhouette, its body comprised of sky and clouds, its eyes and tail crossed out with x’s, wraps itself around a hodgepodge of flowers, ferns, slivers of vacation snapshots and even nods to fishing, which become a common thread in the piece. In other images, mysterious text manifests itself or hangs as the image’s focal point, often with the same fantastical quality as a passage from Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, or even the paintings of Stuart Davis and Pablo Picasso. Boardman has concocted a hacked up world comprised of discordant shapes, mountain views, foliage and odd looming figures that float in and out of the frame.
While so much of this work is dependent on its physical process, Boardman's experimentation with the medium is actually incredibly personal. “Sometimes, impossibly,” he says, “it shows us a world we see with our own eyes bizarre and brand new…I am hoping to awaken things yet unknown to me and continually redefine my relationship with this familiar medium.” Ultimately, this process guides him into unexpected outcomes. “I don't think it's helping me understand the world,” he says. Rather it’s established specific parameters that, while restrictive in some ways, help him relate photography to a broader context of making art. Images from this series were recently published in VICE’s November issue, and will be included in a two-person exhibition with Luke Armitstead at Seattle’s SAD Gallery, opening Friday, November 13th.
Bio: Dan Boardman is a visual artist living in Gloucester Massachusetts. He was born in Ontario California, and grew up in Central New York. He is a 2013 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellow. His work has recently been exhibited at The Bakalar & Paine Galleries in Boston, MA, Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, and The Mills Gallery at The Boston Center for the Arts. His publishing company Houseboat Press has recently exhibited at The Aperture Gallery in New York City and at Off-Print in Paris