Priya Kambli + Bettina Speckner
April 1 – 30, 2017
Like a familiar smell, a photograph has the power to transport us to another place and time. Photographs capture and preserve moments, providing evidence of past experiences and telling stories anew. These qualities inspire the artists Priya Kambli and Bettina Speckner, whose work is paired together in Kitchen Gods, a new exhibition on view at Sienna Patti Contemporary.
As digital imagery floods our lives, Kambli and Speckner are drawn to the tactile quality of printed photographs—though each utilizes these objects to different ends. Kambli’s photos are specific and personal, while Speckner chooses images of anonymous subjects far removed from her own life.
Kambli’s father was an amateur photographer, filling a family album with his numerous photos. Kambli’s parents passed away when she was eighteen and when she left India for the United States soon after, she brought this album with her—the only traces of her family and life in India. Kambli embellishes her father’s photos with Rangoli, a traditional Indian art technique. She stencils textile patterns in flour onto the photos, and then photographs these ephemeral sculptures to make new images. By choosing to obscure, reveal, and frame certain aspects of the photos, Kambli recreates her family narrative and reconciles her own identity—no longer Indian yet not fully American. Kambli’s work parallels her own life as she forges a new future for herself and her family.
Speckner also alters printed photos, scouring antique stores and flea markets for tin ferrotypes from the late 19th and turn of the 20th century, often looking outside her native Germany, where tin-types are rare. She takes these historical artifacts and carefully assembles them into wearable objects. Set in silver and gold, and embellished with stones, her unknown subjects are beloved again, reimagined as heirlooms to be passed on to future generations. Speckner has a gift for making the impersonal precious and the abandoned covetable.
According to the Curator of Photographs at George Eastman House, Alison Devine Nordstrom, “it is women who traditionally have been the keepers of culture and memory.” Kambli and Speckner continue this custom, bridging the past, present, and future through their work. With their collected images, Kambli and Speckner craft stories that as speak a thousand words and that can be retold again and again.
Priya Kambli, born in India moved to the United States at age eighteen carrying her entire life in one suitcase. She began her artistic career in the States and her work has always been informed by this experience as a migrant. She completed her BFA degree in Graphic Design from the University of Louisiana in Lafayette and continued on to receive a MFA degree in Photography from the University of Houston. She is currently Professor of Art at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. In 2008 PhotoLucida awarded her a book publication prize for her project Color Falls Down which was published in 2010. Selected images below, available works here.
Bettina Speckner, Germany, began her studies in the painting department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. After a few years she moved to the jewelry department under Professor Herman Junger receiving her diploma from Professor Otto Kunzli. Bettina has received many awards and accolades for her work including the prestigious Herbert Hoffmann Prize, commendations for the Danner Prize and The Prize of the State of Bavaria. Since her first solo exhibition in 1995, she has shown internationally, both in numerous solo exhibitions and group shows including Brooching it Diplomatically, curated by Helen Drutt English and Micromegas curated by Otto Kunzli. Her work is in the collections of major museums around the world. To read the list and see more of Speckner’s work, visit her artist page. Selected images below, available works here.