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Anna Ayeroff | An Interview about Her Process

August 2016 

Anna Ayeroff has been traveling a lot recently, exploring the desert and the open road as she continues to broaden her practice. Read our interview with her and learn more about her work, the thought behind her unique photography, and developing process. 

Tell us about this series of work?

This series of photographic experiments come from an ongoing project called Land/Light/Longitude. About 7 years ago, I started taking solo road trips to Utah to photograph the ruins of the Jewish farm colony where my Grandfather was born. In taking these trips, I began to explore the surrounding landscape and became enamored with it. This series of works reflects my devotion to this landscape, to these mountains, and seeks to find answers to the question “How do I move mountains?”

What’s the first thing you do when you begin formulating an idea for a piece?

I write. My sketchbooks aren’t drawing based. They’re text based. So if you open them it’s just a bunch of chicken scratch. And maybe a sloppy diagram here or there.

These images are so beautiful and crisp, could you tell us about your developing process? 

I process my film with a non-toxic developer made from coffee and vitamin C. Caffenol. This is a process rich with flaws. My film is streaked with stains. Scan it and the image is brightly colored, the scanner software strangely interpreting light as nearly neon, contemporary. Printing in the darkroom with caffenol as the developer, stains the paper coffee colored, dating it. I use cyanotypes to make prints with sunlight, time making marks upon chemistry as the sun shifts overhead.

Did you grow up around other creative people?

Yes, my mother was trained as an architect and my father was a creative director in the music industry. Both are artists in their own right. My sister is also very creative. We grew up with creative parents and their creative friends. I feel forever grateful to have been and still be surrounded by creative people.

What is one artist living or dead you feel a great connection to? Someone who’s work has inspired your own practice and what you’re creating these days?

I have a strong connection to Agnes Martin’s work. The repetition. The precision. The flaws. Her work speaks loudly to me.

Tell us about the best studio visit you’ve had.

Before I transferred to art school, I attended a summer studio program in France. I was making paintings at the time and there was a clear divide in the work - some were highly conceptual and language based and others were almost purely formal and intuitive. A visiting artist did studio visits with us. He didn’t know me or my work at all but came in and offered just a few words. ‘You need to figure out a way to bring these two ways of making together. You can’t do both and neither is strong enough on its own. Bring them together.’ It crushed me. But it was a perfect critique. And 10 years later, almost every project I work on, I still ask myself, ‘did I bring them together?’

Have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your practice?

I went to college in New York for 2 years straight out of high school. I was unhappy there for many reasons but one was that I felt constantly claustrophobic. I longed for the horizon line. That longing helped inform a lot about my practice today.

What work took you the longest to complete?

I’m still working on a book project I started in 2014. I’m about halfway done. I am tracing specific letters, from every page of “Moving the Mountain” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Can you describe an experience you felt most nervous?

I have had a few moments on the road when I don’t have cell phone reception and I haven’t seen another car for many many miles and I’m driving through a mountain pass or down into a quiet valley and I get really nervous. Feeling that isolated. Alone. But then I surrender to it. And it turns into exhilaration.

What's the bravest thing you've ever done?

My initial answer is solo travel but I realize the most brave act I’ve taken was to put down my dog of 5 years who got very sick very unexpectedly. She was my best friend. She was my sidekick. And the second I knew she was suffering, the answer was very clear to me. It was right. I felt so strong in knowing that, even when feeling such immense loss.

What is your favorite quote?

"Art is important because it changes people's consciousness. And changing people's consciousness changes the world." -Mike Kelley

Best gift you’ve ever received?

For my 18th birthday, my parents gave me a first edition copy of my favorite book, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

What makes you laugh no matter what?

Dancing… and my dog