Christine Elfman is an MFA graduate from the California College of the Arts in San Fransisco. With an undergraduate background in painting, she also works in fibers and photography. Though she is just beginning her career, Elfman as already received several fellowships and solo exhibitions throughout the country. Through her work with the George Eastman House and work with other artists, she has taken a steeped interest in 19th century photographic processes.
When approaching her work, I find Elfman to be deeply interested in the history of an object or a process. Desiring to remain faithful to an origin and heritage, her “inspiration to learn old crafts comes from an attraction towards intricacy visible in careful making rather than patina” (Lucas). When approaching Anthotype Dress- Pokeweed, Elfman was inspired by the writings of Nathaniel Hawthorn and was considering the ideas of the Fading Comittee, 1855, and the desire for permanence within photography. With her experience in historical processes, Elfman found “the Anthotype process is particularly striking; it yields a photograph that cannot be fixed. Not only does it contradict the goal of permanence, it is made out of impermanence” (Lucas). Several times Elfman has referenced the Focal Encyclopedia’s definition of the Anthotype:
“A process suggested by Sir John Herschel in 1842 that used the colored extracts and tinctures of flowers and vegetables to sensitize paper. Objects such as leaves, lace, and other thin materials were placed in contact with the sensitized paper and exposed to sunlight. Anthotypes were not fixed or stabilized, making them impossible to display except in night albums, for evening viewing.”
Elfman’s work is full of beautiful dualities: permanence and impermanence, the destructive process of representation, the sacrifice of subject for the sake of the viewer.