Sesnon Gallery spring exhibit to feature innovative works from three UC Santa Cruz art faculty

What do exploding soap, the Polaroid I-Zone camera, and an espresso coffeemaker have in common? They're all part of Faculty Works: 2004, an exhibition of innovative photography, video installation, and printmaking that will be presented by UCSC's Sesnon Art Gallery from March 31 to May 1. The show will feature works by associate professor of art E.G. Crichton, new assistant professor Jimin Lee, and Art Department chair Norman Locks.

Crichton has blown up dozens of name-brand bars of soap in a microwave oven for her two-part "Little Disasters" project. These distorted objects were then scanned or photographed to undergo further transformation on the computer, eventually ending up as 30-by 40-inch prints. The series is titled "Spotless."

She said this work is informed by her research on the history of soap advertising in Britain and the United States, a legacy rooted in promises to the consumer about racial purity, gender, and upward mobility.

"Starting in the mid-19th century, the ads promised people that soap would make their skin whiter, help them get the right job, and boost their marriage prospects," Crichton said. "There's something very satisfying about exploding these icons of hygiene and purity into less respectable shapes."

Crichton has so far created about 25 soap images for the "Spotless" series. She will exhibit three of them at the Sesnon show. Two others are currently on exhibit at the Center on Contemporary Art in Seattle.

The second part of Crichton's "Little Disasters" will be an installation of four video loops--one large projection on a wall, and three on monitors. She noted that the project is a work-in-progress that has been markedly influenced by the post 9/11 world.

"I've been staging little acts of destruction in my kitchen," she said, "capturing them up close in video. A hammer smashes a perfect egg, for example, or a meat cleaver cruelly slices a flower."

"When the Oakland fires happened in 1991, I started collecting ashes from my backyard and burning things in my house such as photos and papers," Crichton explained. "These became the pages of an artist book called My Fire. It was part of a process of empathizing with that disaster, of trying to come to terms with it. Sometimes I use art to do that--to come to terms with difficult things in life. 'Little Disasters' came about that way."

Jimin Lee joined the UCSC art faculty last fall as an assistant professor specializing in print media. An instructor for the past three years at the San Francisco Art Institute, Cal State Hayward, and San Francisco State University, Lee has exhibited at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in the Bay Area and Anchor Graphics in Chicago, as well as galleries in Rome, Germany, and Switzerland.

Lee plans to introduce the Santa Cruz community to her recent work, which combines photo etchings with digital printing. She said her subject matter consists of everyday objects which are in constant contact with her body, including books, an espresso coffeemaker, and a blender.

"This work has developed and slowly evolved from when I was in graduate school in 1990 at Korea's Seoul National University," Lee noted. "At that time, I only selected objects that touched my mouth-forks, wineglasses, chopsticks. I was inspired by the French post-structuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze."

Lee employs numerous plates in each of her etchings to heighten the complexity of the images. "It can sometimes take up to six months to finish a print," she said.

"Domestic Landscapes" is the title of art professor and department chair Norman Locks's portion of the exhibit. Locks has been scanning photographs taken with the Polaroid I-Zone camera containing miniature details of everyday household experiences, and reconstructing them using digital imaging techniques.

Widely recognized for his experimentation with Polaroids and digital processes, Locks observed that there are both historical and autobiographical motivations for his current project.

"It's probably a throwback to the work I did in the mid and late '70s," he said. "When I was going through undergraduate and graduate school, I was married with children, so the images that were important to me were ordinary, domestic household scenes. But 30 years ago I was working on projects using a Polaroid SX-70 camera, and today I'm using the Polaroid I-Zone--the most recent incarnation of the Polaroid camera-- which was introduced to me by my grandchildren."

"Another interesting aspect of this project is that I'm linking an instant, inexpensive camera with a highly technological and expensive scanner and printer," he added. "So it's kind of a low-tech, high-tech collision as well."

Locks has taught photography for the past three decades. He joined the UCSC art faculty in 1977 and has been chair of the department since 1996.


An opening reception will be held at the Sesnon Gallery on Wednesday, March 31, from 5 to 7 p.m. Each artist in the show will also present a lecture about his or her work during the month of April--Jimin Lee, "Transcendant Ordinaire," April 14; Norman Locks, "Domestic Landscapes," April 21; E.G. Crichton, "Little Disasters," April 27. The lectures take place in the gallery and begin at 5:15 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. For more information, go to: