Noah Doely is an artist living and working in San Diego, California. Doely’s work incorporates traditional ambrotype and tintype photographs full of fiction and illusion. These methods were used at the time of the emergence of photography and are entirely constructed and produced by Doely. His latest series, The Expanse of a Fact, on view at Steve Turner Contemporary until June 30, features ambrotype and tintype photographs that appear as though they were taken in the mid-19th Century. What makes Doely’s works especially unique is the way he combines sculpture, installation, painting, performance and photography. The photographs tell a story and in this series, the story centers around a bearded man constructing and displaying a spherical sculpture of the moon.
Paddle8 had the opportunity to ask Doely a few questions about his current exhibition, his photographic process and his characters.
Paddle8: The photographs from your current exhibition are either ambrotypes or tintypes – can you briefly explain what is entailed in producing images in this way?
Noal Doely: Ambrotypes and tintypes are both produced through use of the wet collodion process – a photographic process that was used in the mid 19th century. I use the same methods and chemistry that a photographer at that time would have. It is a labor intensive process that involves coating a piece of polished glass or blackened tin with a substance called collodion. The coated plate is put in a bath of silver nitrate until it becomes light sensitive then placed in a plate holder which is secured to the back of a camera, exposed to light, and then developed and fixed in a dark room. Each photograph is shot directly off the subject and needs to be exposed and developed within 5-10 minutes.
P8: Can you tell us about one of the characters/personas in this work?
ND: I don’t create characters with extensive biographical descriptions but I do have a general sense of who they are and what they are exploring. The central character of the work in this show is a man with a white beard who is taking part in acts of creation and observation. The production of the piece became folded into the story itself, so there are autobiographical elements to this story and this character. I also see him as an amalgamation of other figures from history from both the realms of science and art making, from Kepler to Georges Méliès. He is following an obsession, attempting to derive some sort of understanding of the world and gain access to the inaccessible.
P8: How does someone “expand a fact” as the title of the exhibition suggests is possible?
ND: One way that facts can expand is through art making which has the ability to complicate facts- add contingencies, and a poetic dimension to them. It builds layers on something that is otherwise considered immovable and fixed.
Doely’s The Expanse of a Fact is on view at Paddle8 member gallery Steve Turner Contemporary until June 30th. Check out a selection of Noah Doely’s work on Paddle8′s “In the Gallery June | Los Angeles” here!