Garie Waltzer, Photographer
2012 MID-CAREER VISUAL ARTS PRIZE
As a college student, Garie Waltzer was on track to become a painter, until she took a photography class her senior year at State University of New York at Buffalo, while completing her BFA.
“It was during the Vietnam War,” she recalls today. “As an abstract painter I was questioning why I was doing the work I was doing.
I was trying to make meaningful work connected to what was happening then so that’s what pulled me toward photography’s capabilities to render immediate raw reality.”
After graduation, the native New Yorker moved back to New York and built her first “tiny, tiny little darkroom in her tiny, tiny little apartment.”
She lived in Boston for a short time, before moving to Cleveland in 1971. A year later, she was hired by Cuyahoga Community College to launch their first photography class at the Western Campus. In 1973, she started teaching there full time, and during the next 30 years, she developed an entire photography curriculum. Tri-C now has an extensive, high-tech visual communications program.
“We built incredible photography labs over the years,” says Garie, who retired from teaching in 2004. “It grew and grew, and it remains a very large and active program.”
Somehow, she found time to commute from Cleveland to SUNY Buffalo and the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York to work toward her MFA in photography. She completed the degree in 1973. Throughout the past few decades, she was also creating and experimenting extensively in various forms of photographic image making, most notably using color electrostatic copiers to create large-scale collages. By employing new technologies and unorthodox imaging machines, she has always explored the boundaries of what is considered “photographic.”
“One of the things I love about photography is how malleable it is,” Garie says. “The technology that is used to image the world informs our perception and understanding of how things are. It is very powerful.”
For the past ten years, she’s been working on a sizable project, Living City, for which she is documenting civic spaces in major cities throughout the world. She employs a printing process known as piezography with carbon-pigmented inks that provide a controlled monochromatic gray scale, a subtle rendering of deep tones and light values, with a beautiful, velvety quality, according to Garie.
“I was interested in incorporating a lot of information in a very broad and deep view of the scene in front of me, and to also be formal in the construction of the image,” she explains.
To create work for her Living City project, Garie tries to travel to at least one or two countries every year, and she then stays for several weeks. Her visits involve research and “a lot of walking and wandering and going up and down and in and out,” searching for a configuration of space that feels compelling because it says something about that place, she says. One photo, “Shanghai Overpass #1,” captures an elevated view of a vibrant street scene with cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists all flowing around a giant, sweeping overpass that dominates the image. To date, she’s photographed approximately 40 cities in countries including Brazil, China, Ecuador, England, France, Greece, Honduras, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, and the US.
She has received numerous grants and fellowships from various agencies, including the Ohio Arts Council, the Robert B. Menschel Media Center in Syracuse, NY, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared in exhibits at galleries throughout the US, and in selected collections such as the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Continental Bank of Chicago, the George Gund Foundation, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.
She recently had a solo exhibition of her Living City project in Singapore, and this October is scheduled for another in Hong Kong. Many of these photographs are viewable on her website (www.gariewaltzer.com). Her work is represented in Cleveland by Bonfoey Gallery.
“Urban spaces are very complex and layered,” Garie says. “There’s a lot of history embedded in the landscape; past and present reside simultaneously. Photography is a powerful vehicle to understand how we make our habitats over time.”