Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Theme 2 - Still life research - Jan Groover

Jan Groover was born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1943. Ms. Groover pursued an education in art receiving her B.F.A. in painting in 1965, from Pratt Institute in New York then receiving her Master's in Art Education from Ohio State University in 1969. After teaching art in junior high school then University of Hartford in the early 1970's, she turned to photography. While she experimented with a range of styles and vision she is perhaps best known for her still life images of ordinary objects, kitchen utensils, plants but taking her images with vibrant color and larger than life close ups. She received grants from New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ms. Groover enjoyed a wide range of artistic expression. The larger than life imagery from her photography found expression in platinum-palladium printing, exaggerated images with brilliant color and luminance. She enjoyed writing and published "Pure Invention: The Tabletop Still Life" in 1990. She also taught at the State University of New York College before moving to France where she lives now.
We don't know exactly what led Ms. Groover from a career of formal art to that of photography. She is quoted stating: "With photography I didn't have to make things up, everything was already there."
I was originally attracted to Ms. Groover's photographs for their vibrant color and larger than life imagery. In her life, there is a sharp departure from photographs depicting motion, time, speed, and color to what perhaps she is best known for, simple everyday objects found in the home. One review states 'she turned to her kitchen sink' for new ideas. Many of her photographs depict kitchen utensils, knives, forks, and other subjects found in the home such as bowls, dishes, or house plants.
Her pictures were taken with a 4x5 view camera. Her photographs stressed and illustrated her influence and obedience to formalism. A favorite photograph of mine, "Untitled, 1979. JG #95.2'", has a blend of shapes, curves, and lines that is almost hypnotic and yet when I first looked at it, it was easy for my imagination to see many other things. I see shell, and ancient ruins, and wares of a Roman triumph. Perhaps this is an expression of Ms. Groover's alignment with formalism. Any shape can captivate.
Does any shape have gratifying qualities? Does any shape have special detail when we take the time to observe? The image above accentuates silver and yet we see tarnish drift to iridescence and mirrored reflection.
"According to Groover, the meaning of the objects is of no importance; only the shape, texture, and form that falls into a particular space is important."
What a wonderful tribute to a photographer and a tribute to her art. Her ability to share and see illuminating quality in the most simple of things says much about her vision. When I reviewed Ms. Groover's work, it is easy to mistake some of her photography with her prints. Her photographs possess some of the 'larger than life' color and detail... of a print that was privileged with additional editing. According to one writer, "Groover makes pictures that are interesting not so much for the things they show us as for how they show us these things".

Taking on board Groovers affinity to knives and forks, I created the image below using the following equipment:

1x Nikon D300
1X tripod
1X 50mm lens
piece of embossed paper
Knives and forks

The knives and forks on their own, I felt were quite uninspiring so I decided to raid the kitchen cupboards and use different coloured sauces to add a different texture,  different colours and a different aspect to the image.


  1. Hi
    My you have been busy!!
    Keep it up as this will help you to inform and improve your images. Make sure that you compare and contrast your images to that of your research in a blog with them alongside each other, I see you have done that with the Edward Weston images which is great.


  2. The photograph of the two pears is actually my photograph. I was inspired by the work of Jan Groover but please don't confuse my work with hers.
    Paul Leatham.

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