New alt_space Exhibition in November October 15 2021

Anthologia - A Gathering of Flowers and Mementos

November 6 - December 11, 2021
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 6, 4-7 PM


Image: Anna Tomczak, Rosie's Flight, polaroid image transfer on Arches paper, 36 x 28 inches

About the Exhibition

When Arts on Douglas opened its doors in 1996, Anna Tomczak was the first artist to present a solo exhibition. Now, 25 years later, she has been honored with another solo exhibition as part of the gallery’s anniversary exhibition series. Tomczak has continuously exhibited her photography with the gallery since the beginning, having been featured in over 10 solo shows and countless group exhibitions. For this occasion, Tomczak presents Anthologia: A Gathering of Flowers and Mementos. This exhibition takes viewers on a tour through a range of photographic processes explored by the artist over the years, each of which exemplifies the enigmatic and poetic still life compositions for which she is known. 

Arts on Douglas staff worked closely with Tomczak on this display, culling through her archives to find hidden gems from various points in her career to showcase. The title, Anthologia, references the fact that this exhibition is a visual anthology of work, but the historical origins of the word are equally significant. Tomczak explains that the Greek origin of Anthology derives from the root words anther (flower) and legein (to gather). These words merged to become Anthologia, which loosely translates as collected “flowers” of verse or poetry. Tomczak summarizes, “In addition to being an anthology of my work, the scenes I create in my photographs often incorporate collected flowers and botanicals as part of my still-life compositions, adding another layer of meaning to the title.”

While flower arrangements and cuttings are important elements in many of Tomczak’s photographs, she also incorporates an impressive array of objects, or mementos, as well. Whether these items are found, acquired, or borrowed, Tomczak has an uncanny skill at sorting and assembling an array of seemingly disparate objects into striking compositions that hint at a narrative while remaining shrouded in mystery. 

Tomczak's early explorations in photography began with hand-painted black and white photographs, which she did from 1978-1993.  Then, in 1993, Tomczak was selected to study under photographer William Wegman during a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Wegman was known for using a 20 x 24 Polaroid camera for his work. While there are only 5 of these cameras in existence, one was available during this residency, which provided Tomczak with a rare opportunity to explore this technology. She learned how to transfer the dyes from large sheets of Polaroid film onto watercolor paper and became enamored with the look and feel of this process. She continued creating 20x24 Polaroid transfers through 2018 until materials became harder to come by.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Tomczak also began exploring high-end digital photography and printing techniques using a digital scanner back and a special lens for digital photography. About this process, Tomczak elaborates, “What struck me the most about using the digital camera in the studio was the clarity and brilliance of the colors. Unlike traditional photography, images appear clearer the larger they get and I am impressed by the intricate details that can be captured." These high-quality digital images were printed in limited editions using an Iris drum printer and were printed onto Somerset Velvet paper.  

Tomczak has continued pushing the envelope by exploring and experimenting with an impressive array of photographic processes and techniques, both analog and digital. She transfers images onto paper with wintergreen oils, creates hand-made books, and builds up mixed-media collages that she coats with encaustic wax and oils. Tomczak has offered workshops in the United States and nationally in many of these processes over the years.

Since her first exhibition at Arts on Douglas in 1996, Tomczak has continued to embrace the medium of photography in its many forms, pushing her artistic vision forward, forging a distinct visual style that is truly her own.  


Anna Tomczak, With Green Wings, hand painted silver gelatin print, 24 x 23 inches
Anna Tomczak, Muybridge and Mona (ed. 14/30), iris print, 27 x 23 inches