The Great Creators
Enhancing Our Community’s Cultural Landscape One Creative Project at a Time
(page 8 of 8)
A Recalibration of the Senses
Norman Sarachek’s art can gently guide the mind through placid dimensions of discovery or jolt the psyche with its defiant otherness. His captivating creations were included in Robert Hirsch’s Photographic Possibilities and Christina Z. Anderson’s The Experimental Photography Handbook—both prominent textbooks about experimental photography. Since 1993, he has been in numerous one-man and group shows throughout the country. Not a small accomplishment for a man who did not initially pursue a career as an artist.
He was working as a clinical cardiologist in Allentown for 22 years when his wife, artist Jett Ulaner Sarachek, suggested they take a photography class, “Learning to See in Black and White” at the Maine Photo Workshop. He recalls enthusiastically, “The class blew my mind. I had no idea how much was involved in taking a good picture.” A week later, while driving home, he consciously experienced the recalibration of his senses—red barns were black, yellow signs were white. His mind was interpreting the landscape through the eyes of an artist.
He nurtured his talent by studying with Boston photographer Costa Manos and Larry Fink (while in Italy). His photographic inquiries captured people at their homes, carnivals, fairs and bars. Curiously, he spent three summers going to the Allentown Rose Gardens to photograph weddings and the photographers who officially shot the weddings. One of these now hangs in the Chico Museum in California. The work is titled, “Rose Garden Weddings.”
He pursued an intimate, distinctive style of photography for about a decade. Although he created engaging images and experienced successful shows at the Southern Vermont Art Center and Freedman Gallery at Albright College, he wanted to break out in a fresh direction and push himself and his art beyond conventional boundaries.
Sarachek began making photograms. He creates these by making a “mask” of ink marks on clear acetate or newsprint paper. Next, he places the mask on top of photo paper and exposes it to light, creating a reverse image of the mask on the photo paper. This technique allowed him to design his work from scratch. The stunning images he produced were featured in New York City and Philadelphia shows, entitled “American Landscapes.” This propelled Sarachek further into the realm of fertile experimentation.
He delved deeper into destructive creativity by applying chemicals directly to the photo paper to destroy the silver. This transformed the image from the restricted realms of black into a nuanced landscape where whites, beiges and grays emerged. He called these new pieces “chemograms.” Because of confusion over the use of the phrase “chemo,” he changed the “o” to an “i.” After doing a Google search, he discovered others were involved in making these chemically influenced creations under the same moniker. His creations, however, are groundbreaking.
His "chemigrams" are a hybrid of intent and chance. Sarachek’s early pieces, done on black and white photo paper (without resist) are fascinating. Some suggest arcane landscapes, while others seem like a glimpse into alien morphology. Using soft resists before applying chemicals to the paper, launches the images in other provocative directions. These conjure Zen vistas, Pollack-like abstractions and complex images mined from the unconscious.
Unlike many other artists working in this area, Sarachek works in a fast and gestural fashion. He applies the resist with brushes, calligraphy pens, old socks, leaves, cling wrap, rolled up newspaper, feathers and leaves. This leftfield approach generates a tremendous variety of marks and movement on the paper.
Sarachek also enjoys painting immensely. His meditative creations, created with acrylics on aluminum panels, have an organic, minimalist vibe. He intuitively marks the surface with oil-dipped feathers, twigs, old pieces of matte board and other unorthodox materials.
Recently he started using his chemigrams as a photographer uses a negative or digital file. He scans the original and judiciously adjusts the image in Photoshop. By engaging digital systems of production he can prepare large-scale archival pigment prints of the one-of-a-kind original chemigram for exhibition.