Beatrice Pediconi’s works, on view at sepiaEYE through June 25, elude easy categorization. Nominally C-prints, Polaroids, and video, the works are a fluid – I use the term intentionally – combination of photography, performance, painting, and drawing.
Pediconi’s own description of her practice is straightforward – she says she paints on water and that her photographs and videos are simply documents of works that no longer exist. Using a paintbrush or possibly a syringe to apply various substances – paint, ink, or powder – to the water’s surface, she choreographs the movement of those materials and then photographs or films the results. The images harken back, in some ways, to 19th-century photographic motion studies; in other ways, to gestural action paintings.
Pediconi produces her work in a variety of formats, from small Polaroids to large pigments prints, videos, and artist’s books (an important element of her practice), and each offers a distinct way of experiencing the work. The exhibition includes a selection of 8×10-inch black-and-white Polaroids as well as a grouping of smaller, 4×5-inch Polaroids framed in simple Plexiglas supports that protrude slightly from the wall. These are intimate, delicate pieces that emphasize the gesture of the artist’s hand and the behavior of various materials. Four large pigment prints are more immersive, and the split-screen video in the back room is transfixing, almost meditative.
The images – some in color, some in black and white – call to mind an array of scenarios, including but certainly not limited to clouds, tidal pools, sperm, petri dishes, and galaxies of stars. They also bring to mind Susan Derges’s photograms, which she makes by submerging photographic paper under the moving surface of water and exposing it to sunlight. But Pediconi’s images are more allusive, less tied to the natural world. The show is called Alien/Alieno, and it suggests the otherworldly, even strange, qualities of her works. On the other hand, as Carl Sagan famously observed, we are all made of the same “starstuff” anyway, and it is that elemental quality that Pediconi’s work points to most of all