“Mimesis is grounded in issues of identity, the other and the psychology of knowledge and power. The struggle to accept the unfamiliar is pervasive in our culture. Raised in a family with a diverse ethnic heritage has led me to reflect on the fluid, abstract nature of identity, which informs my use of photography.”

Claire A. Warden is a recipient of a 2017 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.

Mimesis is an ongoing series of large-scale experimental photographs produced with cameraless processes in the studio through which the artist will investigate the abstract nature of identity and personal experiences as an immigrant and person of mixed race. The project will contain four important aspects: conceptual and aesthetic research, image and print production, technology, and broadening the artworks’ audience.

Warden makes these photographs using two distinct processes that manipulate the surface of photographic black and white film to explore her self-identity as a person of color and as an immigrant. First, she exposes the negative film to varying degrees of light and develops it normally in a darkroom. Once the film is developed and dried, Warden applies saliva directly to the film and leaves the film untouched for anywhere from two weeks to two months. Digestive enzymes in the saliva react chemically with the silver gelatin layer of the film. The organic patterning is a result of the saliva etching through the gelatin and what is left behind on the film is metallic silver and biologic matter. Once this process is complete, Warden interacts with the patterning on the film in a controlled and intentional way with simple manual tools—like tape or scissors—to create informed symbols and patterns. This secondary process of mark-making is always additive or subtractive to the negative itself, in reference to the sociological term “impression management.” It is, in effect, the way that people manage other people’s impressions of themselves by giving or withholding information about ourselves, by dressing a certain way, by acting a certain way: it is our editing. In this way, the controlled mark-making adds to and takes away from the initial saliva process. Each photograph contains both of these processes: one that is referencing the biologic and one that represents the conscious and cultural.

No. 15 (Genetics). Pigment print, 2015, 36 x 28 inches. By Claire A. Warden. (pictured left)

No. 42 (Emphasis). Pigment print, 2015, 36 x 58 inches. By Claire A. Warden (pictured above)

Claire A. Warden is an artist working in Phoenix, Arizona. Her work explores intersecting ideas of knowledge, control, identity, and performance. The constructed photograph is integral to her arts practice. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University.

Warden’s work has been exhibited in the United States and abroad, including solo exhibitions of Mimesis at the Center for Fine Art Photography, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center and Art Intersection. She has participated in group exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography, Rayko Photo Center, Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, Division Gallery in Toronto, Agripas 12 Gallery in Jerusalem, Galería Valid Foto in Barcelona and Students’ City Cultural Center Gallery in Belgrade. She received an artist residency through the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists in Léhon, France, an Individual Artist Grant Award supported by the Creative Capacity Fund and the Contemporary Forum Artist Grant supported in part by the Nathan Cummings Foundation Endowment. She has been named LensCulture’s Top 50 Emerging Talents (2014), Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers (2015), a Critical Mass finalist (2015) and a Photobook Melbourne Photo Award finalist (2015). Her work has been featured in Real Simple magazine (2014), The HAND Magazine (2014), Common Ground Journal (2014), Prism Magazine (2015), Diffusion Magazine (2016) as well as forthcoming publications by LUEL Magazine in South Korea and PYLOT Magazine in the UK. Claire completed a yearlong residency at Art Intersection in Arizona in 2015 and will be a 2016 Artist-In-Residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock in September.