Jeri Eisenberg works primarily with non-traditional and alternative photo-based techniques. She represses or subverts traditional photography’s emphasis on the representational qualities of the medium, and emphasizes instead the medium’s expressive nature. She employs a strong sense of materiality and seductive surfaces in her work, to evoke sense memories and visceral connections. Her work steadfastly serves as an affirmation of beauty in the everyday natural world, but is tinged with the bittersweet – a reminder of the temporal condition, and an elegy for life.
These pieces are from my series A Sojourn in Seasons, which consists of five chapters of photo-based work: one black and white chapter and four seasonal chapters in color. Each piece in the series depicts the common wooded landscape of my day-to-day life, captured mostly in rural upstate New York where I live.
The images are firmly grounded in the natural world, reflecting the geographic region, season and light in which they were captured. But by photographing with a purposefully oversized pinhole or a radically defocused lens, I capture trees and foliage as they are not often depicted. The images are sketches with light: details are obscured and only the strongest elements remain.
The work is unabashedly retinal and is as much object as it is image. The pieces are translucent, reflective and tactile – as a result of encaustic in and on the surface of Japanese Kozo paper. I paint molten encaustic on the printed panels while pulling the paper over a hot metal plate, thus allowing the wax to fully infuse into the fibers of the Kozo. I generally segment the images into diptychs, triptychs and quads, forcing the eye to consider each fragment separately. In exhibition, the individual Kozo panels are held in place by strong magnets against acrylic bars, allowing the work to appear to float an inch off the wall and to move independently with air current in a room.
The work speaks directly to the senses, and sits on the balance point between the concrete and the abstract, perception and memory, form and essence. I began A Sojourn in Seasons when my father started losing both his vision and his memory. The images may be close to what he now sees and grasps: elements that fade in and out of recognizable form. It is comforting to know that despite the loss of definition, essential qualities endure. The work helps me to remember that all of life is ephemeral – you hold on to what you can, and ultimately, you must let go.