Susan Eder. American, c. 1950
Craig Dennis. American, c. 1950

Both conceptual artists, Susan Elder and Craig Dennis arrived at photography as a way to examine science and perceptual bias. Their work often has a pop art sensibility and resulting humor, as well as an "age of discovery" exploration of the natural world.


*Further inquiries click on artist/dealer website listed below.


Artist Statement

While each of us has a separate, productive history of artistic accomplishment, we have collaborated formally since 2001, sharing all aspects of the art-making process. Every project begins with a concept that engages both of us equally — despite our differing approaches and affinities — and which offers the potential to become more than it would be if created by either of us alone.

Recording uncanny instances of common subjects allows our work to reveal content-rich terrain available to the patient and discerning eye. We enjoy reshaping instinctive ways of seeing. While our approach relies on the camera’s accepted faithfulness of representation, we try to turn that documentary premise on itself by releasing unexpected imagery from mundane things.
Essays

Marsha Mateyka Gallery

Susan Eder and Craig Dennis

Susan Eder/ Craig Dennis:
"Mutations/ Hide & Seek"
on view through April 4, 2015
Reception for the artists: 
Saturday, March 14, 4:00 - 6:00PM
open First Friday, Dupont Circle, March 6, 6:00 to 8:00 PM

A new series of photographs by the collaborative team Susan Eder/Craig Dennis is featured in the gallery's current exhibition. In addition to their collaborations which have been ongoing since 2001, each artist works independently. This exhibition also includes two new series by Susan Eder.

Susan Eder and Craig Dennis have often described their collaborative work as follows: "We are intrigued by the gap between representation and abstraction and often operate at the very fulcrum on which images pivot from one mode into the other. Our work pursues the underlying perceptual and cultural mechanisms by which pure abstraction starts to represent, and the recognizable is transmuted into new meanings."

Their new series is titled "Hide & Seek". Here the artists have paired "photographs of two extremely close-up, greatly enlarged views of the top and bottom sides of a butterfly's overlapped wings. By focusing on pattern and coloring-camouflage for hiding and vivid color for seeking a mate- the piece alludes to broader concepts of duality, deception and adaptability."

Biological mutations have fascinated Susan Eder for many years. In her two new series, she presents mutations she has found in clovers and orchids.

"Clovers with more than three leaves are mutations resulting from environmental and genetic causes, occurring approximately once for every 10,000-20,000 normal specimens. They are reproductive errors.....yet have been considered fortuitous for millennia." The images in this exhibition include 4, 5 and 6 leaf clovers that the artist has collected and photographed over a number of years.

Susan Eder and Craig Dennis on artline

Susan Eder's orchid series focuses on comparisons of normal and peloric blossoms of the same variety. These variations in structure and color occasionally occur in the wild, but are much more common in genetically manipulated and cloned orchids grown for the mass market. The comparisons are greatly enlarged and dramatically presented in these new photographs.

All the photographs in this exhibition are LightJet prints in small editions. The printing process uses laser light to project high-resolution images on photo-sensitive paper, preserving maximum detail and luminosity. Susan Eder and Craig Dennis emphasize that they do not alter or fabricate the actual subject matter of their photographs which are all taken directly from nature.  

* all above quotes are by Susan Eder and Craig Dennis

Biography

Susan Eder and Craig Dennis met during their first week of art school at the University of Michigan, married four years later, attended grad school at Ohio State University, and have been collaborating ever since. They spent eleven years in academia. Craig taught all aspects of studio fine arts at Colgate University and Williams College, while Susan taught fine art, graphic design, and calligraphy at SUNY Morrisville and North Adams (Massachusetts) State College. In 1985 they opened a graphic design business, Arts & Letters, Ltd., in Falls Church, VA. While continuing their individual art practices, their artistic collaboration began in 2001.

Susan Eder
Born in St. Louis, MO, Susan was raised in a family of artists and musicians who prioritized creative expression and constant access to art materials, museum visits and private lessons. By age two, she knew she would be an artist, eventually earning her BFA in printmaking and ceramics and her MFA degree in sculpture and drawing.

Eder’s content-oriented approach to photography was influenced early on by conceptual art; while living in Hamilton, NY, in the mid-1970s, her friends included structuralist film-maker Hollis Frampton, photographer Marion Faller and new-media artist Patrick Clancy. An impulse to collage an old vacation snapshot into a drawing led her to carry a small camera with her; the photos she took generated series that left drawing behind and explored the oddities of everyday life. Described by one critic as “less a documentarist than a kind of freewheeling social philosopher with a camera,”* Eder uses gentle interventions and curious juxtapositions to uncover the metaphoric power lurking in everyday objects.

* Alice Thorson, Washington City Paper, Feb. 1-7, 1991

Craig Dennis
Growing up in Lansing, Michigan during the depths of the Cold War, the arts always took a backseat to my more serious scientific, academic pursuits. While art was my first love, it was not considered as noble as rocket science. That was where you found true genius. As I matured and conversed with my colleagues in the hard sciences, I found that their pursuits were really all about the same theorizing, experimenting and pattern recognition that artists confront on a daily basis. I finally realized that art is the birthplace of new ideas. It challenges us to perceive our existence in fresh and unusual ways. That’s where I wanted to be. All my artistic efforts since, while giving a nod to the rigid scientific methods I first learned in the lab, have always been tempered with the poetry of "what if."

CV

Susan Eder
born 1952 St. Louis, MO

education
1974 Ohio State University, Columbus, MFA
1972 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, BFA

work in public collections
Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
LaGrange Art Museum, LaGrange, GA
Longwood University, Farmville, VA
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
University of Richmond, VA
U.S. Department of State, Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Craig Dennis
born c. 1952 Lansing, MI

education
1974 Ohio State University, Columbus, MFA
1972 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, BFA

work in public collections
Bradley University, Peoria, IL
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
Franklin Furnace Archives, New York, NY
Hunterdon Art Museum, Clinton, NJ
Kansas State University, Manhattan
Longwood University, Farmville, VA
National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD
Ohio State University, Columbus
Plymouth State College, NH
Silvermine Guild of Artists Inc, New Canann, CT
Saint Lawrence University, Canton, NY
State University of New York at Potsdam
Texas Tech University Museum, Lubbock, TX
Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA
Reviews

Susan Eder and Craig Dennis

In the "Hide and Seek" exhibit, artistic collaborators Susan Eder and Craig Dennis take a close look at butterflies. (Susan Eder and Craig Dennis/Courtesy of Marsha Mateyka Gallery )
Washington Post March 20, 2015
By Mark Jenkins

Artistic collaborators Susan Eder and Craig Dennis specialize in near-abstract patterns, but they don't make them. The Northern Virginia photographers find them in nature — gazing at clouds, bananas or other commonplace things through a macro lens. The diptychs in "Hide & Seek," their show at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, look at butterflies from both sides. The two-panel pictures contrast the undersides of the insects' wings, which feature mottled browns and eye-shaped ovals as camouflage, with tops of silky blue or red. The vividly single-hued wings are used to attract mates, but when photographed and enlarged dramatically, they resemble color-field paintings.

Eder also does solo work, such as the "Mutations" the gallery is showing. One set depicts four-, five- and six-leaf clovers, each biological curiosity endowed with authenticity by such little flaws as small holes and brown spots. The clovers are shown in glass vessels, while Eder arrays orchids in front of black backdrops, highlighting their voluptuous pinkness. Aside from arranging them in pairs or groups, Eder doesn't manipulate the orchid images.

Four-leaf clovers are natural phenomena, but the most unusual orchids (called peloric mutations) result from cloning or genetic alteration. Magnified and isolated, they are both beautiful and bizarre. Eder simply observes, but the greenhouse alchemists who beget such blooms engage in strange magic.



Journal Europa(12/2011-1/2012)
Nantes, France
European Cinema Issue
Cover and inside imagery for lead article by Thibault Dumas
Susan Eder et Craig Dennis forment un couple et oeuvrent ensemble depuis 2001 à l'élaboration de photos originales qui dépeignent le plus souvent des situations entre l'abstraction et le figuration. Leur travail explore l'universalité de l'esprit humain pour en discerner les différentes perspectives et même solliciter des émotions produites par des phénomènes naturels.

La série entitulée The Popcorn met en forme des expressions inespérées de graines soufflées, ni modifiées, ni retouchées. Les illustrations d'Eder et Dennis sont publiées sur le site ederdennis.com. Leurs photos en édition limitée, appartenant à de nombreaux propriétaires publics comme privés, sont disponibles à la galerie Marsha Mateyka, située dans la capitale étatsunienne, Washington. marshamateykagallery.com.



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Baltimore City Paper (4/15/2009)
By Martin L. Johnson
Letters, Words, and Phrases

Through April 26, 2009 at Goucher College's Rosenberg Gallery, Baltimore, MD

The standard histories of the development of language portray the move from symbolic representation—you signal "snake" by drawing one—to abstract representation (the letters "s-n-a-k-e") as a central breakthrough. The versatility of language systems gives them the ability to represent, however poorly, our senses, perceptions and even ideas. But language itself is a representation, as the nine artists in Letters, Words, and Phrases are all too eager to remind us. Collecting sculptors, photographers, printmakers, and mixed-media artists, the show imagines the potential of language to evoke more than itself, to make letters pictures once again.

Nowhere is this more clear than Susan Eder and Craig Dennis' photographs of letters in the sky. This series of works convey the evolution of the project, starting with "New Cloud Roman," which arranges cloud representations of all the letters in the alphabet along with numbers and a few typographical symbols. It's hard to tell whether the letters are the result of skywriting or digital manipulation or days and days of sky-watching, but the quick reduction of the clouds to letters suggests that it doesn't matter. Once one produces a complete typeface, the letters are in service of producing words. Eder and Dennis decide to spell "Nothing Lasts Forever" in one piece, and "Which Image Never Fades Away?" in another. Close examination reveals that the letters in these pieces are in fact reproductions of the letters in earlier pieces, which draws attention back to the words...



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Taken for Looks: Imaging Food in Contemporary Art
August 31 – October 29, 2006 Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL
By Sarah Tanguy

...The Southeast Museum of Photography's exhibition, Taken for Looks, Imaging Food in Contemporary Photography, takes a daunting view of the sustenance of our lives, not stopping for a breath before tossing up another discomfiting view of our most cherished culinary traditions....

The collaborative duo of conceptual artists Susan Eder and Craig Dennis arrived at photography as a way to examine science and perceptual bias. Their work often has a pop art sensibility with a strong thread of humor. In "Lineage: Banana Family" a single banana is sliced into surgical cross sections that are posed against a black velvet background and photographed. The sequence of cross sections proceeds from one end of the banana to the other forming a family of banana faces. Their work mimics the fervor of "age of discovery" explorations of the natural world and other scientific inquiries with the pseudo-mapping of a species and an intense focus on specimens...



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
The Washington Post (8/4/2006)
By Michael O'Sullivan
'Conversions': Giving Rooms New Dimensions
July 20 – Sept. 29, 2006, The Ellipse Arts Center, Arlington, VA with The Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran

All visual art, by definition, exists in space. In addition to interpreting space, at least traditionally, by presenting a window into a fictional world, every painting or photograph, like every sculpture, is a physical object. Even examples of new media with a negligible physical dimension—video art, for example—involve hardware such as monitors...

Other intriguing works include...Susan Eder and Craig Dennis's photographs. In their collaboration, natural cloud formations appear to spell out the letters of "Which Image Never Fades Away?" It's both the work's title and a pretty good question...



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Washington City Paper (9/30/2005, Issue: 39, Volume: 25)
By Louis Jacobson
Susan Eder and Craig Dennis
Sept. 7 – Oct. 1, 2005, The Marsha Mateyka Gallery, Washington, D.C.

Photographing clouds may not be the most original pursuit, but the work of Susan Eder and Craig Dennis is sui generis. Over the years, the two have documented clouds that look like letters and numbers—one for every letter and digit, plus punctuation marks, right down to the semicolon. Their works, showing through today at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery, combine elements of the artists' alphanumeric collection in witty ways: an eye chart, a cinematic frame reading "THE END," a mathematical "magic square" matrix, and even a typographical chart for the winkingly named "New Cloud Roman" font. (A second series documents the unexpected patterns visible in slices of cinnamon-swirl bread.) A few of the duo's cloud works reach for grander meaning—one spells out "God" in dozens of languages, playing off the heavenly imagery—but even without the intellectual spin, the artists' dreamy blue tones, plus the knowledge of how difficult it was to bring the series to fruition, are reward enough. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (to Oct. 1) at the Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW. Free. (202) 328-0088.



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
The New York Times (8/31/2003)
By Benjamin Genocchio
Art Review: An Exhibition Stocked with More Food Than Many Pantries
Food Matters: Explorations in Contemporary Art, Katonah Museum of Art
Aug. 10 – Oct. 26, 2003

"PLEASE, No Food or Drink in the Galleries" says a sign on the wall at the Katonah Museum of Art. I couldn't help but laugh, for the museum is showing "Food Matters," an exhibition of works by artists who deal with the preparation, presentation and consumption of food. Simply, the museum is stuffed with food and drink....

Without background information, much of the work here remains oblique. Fortunately, wall labels are on hand to guide you through the show. For instance, we learn that close-up photographs of popcorn kernels by Susan Eder and Craig Dennis "combine detailed observation with deadpan humor to project human or animal traits onto objects with only a minimum of cues."



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Washington DC Where Magazine (January 2006)
Parting Shot: Freeze Frames
By Jean Lawlor Cohen

Susan Eder calls herself "a conceptual artist who uses photography," not "a photographer" She and her collaborator/husband Craig Dennis, in what seems a parody of scientific research, choose to document mundane, non-art things like clouds, exquisitely lit banana slices and popped corn. They know that viewers, confronted by objects in series, tend to "read in" personalities and perceive human faces.

For Snowmen, an edition of 19 chromogenic prints, Eder set out with her camera across wintry landscapes of Virginia's Fairfax and Arlington counties. "Every eight-year-old makes a snowman," she says. "Snow must have been used for the earliest effigies." She knocked on doors and asked permission to shoot each icy figure (from a sports fan in shades, above, to a Goth), all marked by ingenuity — a hot dog nose, Oreo cookie eyes. Just in case some sculptor might later cry foul, Eder talked to art lawyers. "They felt I was O.K. It seems ice sculpture can't be copyrighted, because it melts." She's delighted that Marsha Mateyka Gallery (page 20) recently sold three snowmen images to the State Department for the U.S. embassy in Uzbekistan. "It's a country in political turmoil. My snowmen may bring smiles to their faces."

Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Hyle — International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry
(Volume 9, No. 1, 2003, pp. 105-118)
Four Ways of Measuring the Distance Between Alchemy and Contemporary Art
By James Elkins

...The same, I want to suggest, happens in contemporary art, although the language of alchemical emblems has yet to be applied to it. I choose an example from photography, ... Susan Eder's collection of photographs called Cloud Faces (Figure 2). Eder is a versatile photographer whose work can be traced most clearly to the institution of the Wunderkammer (roughly: the world as a source of wonder, rather than a repository of science), which is currently undergoing an intermittent renascence in visual art. But the deeper current here, the one that underwrites even the inconsistent revivals of the Wunderkammer, is the tradition of emblems without texts. Here there is no inscriptio or subscriptio, as in La Perrière, and not even any accompanying mystifying text, as in Maier (although gallerists supply such texts with exhibition catalogues). The clouds are simply clouds, or simply faces: there is no clear meaning, no moral, no purpose. There is a bit of whimsy, in this case, and a touch of wonder and playfulness: but to what end? If it had a clear purpose, a La Perrière-style moral, it would probably not be counted as art. I could have chosen pictures with more formal affinity to the seventeenth-century emblems — Clemente's and Schnabel's paintings often mix odd symbols with figures — but that would be a little misleading. It's not the formal similarities that provide the deepest affinities, but the suspension of clear meaning....



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Art Papers Magazine (July/August 2002)
Review: Sights/Seers at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, VA
By Eileen Mott (excerpt; full text on request)

...Eder's unwavering stance before the human face speaks of her long journey as a visual archaeologist. She sees the camera as a tool to craft works of inquiry and revelation. Photographs are merely Eder's starting point, and one of her great strengths is her ability to unearth small truths and from them create artworks that are startlingly beautiful and loaded with painstaking perceptions.

...The most poignant works in the Frames of Reference series are a trio of paired frames entitled "Me Through My Father's, Mother's and Husband's Glasses." These photographs present six versions of the artist's face, through the lenses of three people who love her. The resulting distortions are uncanny. Through her father's glasses, she appears as both angel and imp; through her mother's, she is younger, rounder, and blurred just enough to be unknowable.

It is through her husband's lenses that the artist appears most real, closest to what I know Eder to look like. But herein lies the irony and seduction of Susan Eder's work: I write about photographs made with camera and eyeglass lenses where the subject itself is a photographic self-portrait of the artist — and I reflect upon "what I know Eder to look like" — and I am wearing glasses. This is Eder's strength: from simplicity she creates conundrum. She shows us truth and, like Emily Dickenson, shows its slant....



Sights/Seers, Two Photographic Points of View: Susan Eder and Chiles T. A. Larson
January 12 - March 2, 2002, Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, VA
Brochure essay by curator Deborah McLeod
(excerpt: full text on request)

One photographer is interested in documenting what, where, and especially when we see, as we contemplate the world around us; the other is more curious about how we see. And exactly who sees what. These are very different approaches, and yet each is concerned with the personal landscape of the camera lens and its solemn pledge to tell a truth. But photography is a cosmic trompe l'oeil, a trick of the eye, even when it is behaving as anticipated.

...Take Susan Eder's two series of photographs, which consider the view from both sides of the spectacle. In Frames of Reference there is the landscape itself: a garden statue, a lily pond, a balloon rally, the family dog, the sister, the brother-in-law. Regular stuff in round frames? Not quite. Eder is only partially concerned with documenting the subject matter she offers the viewer. What she is really after is the condition of human sight and the impossibility of objectivity. Each pair of views is shot directly through the left and right prescription lenses of friends or family members, and playfully framed like eyeglasses. The astigmatisms and degree of visual impairment that come across through this photographic device reveal the perspective of an individually empirical experience, with blurs and distortions decipherable only to that person....



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Contemplating the Obvious: Photographic Studies by Susan Eder
September 23 – November 6, 1999, McLean Project for the Arts, McLean, VA
Brochure essay by Martha McWilliams
(excerpt; full text on request)

For those who doubt that we create "reality," Susan Eder's photographs are a salutary corrective. Her vivid and disturbing works disguise their challenges to certainty in such complex visceral and visual juxtapositions, however, that thoughtful viewers soon long for the relatively tranquil shores of simple paradox. But Eder's work is never simple, although it often appears straightforward. And while she seems to be looking carefully at objects, images and creatures any citizen might encounter, her gaze is not merely the trained eye of the artist, but more like the paralyzing stare of the basilisk.

Eder's art is all the more insinuating because of its cheerfully ordinary subject matter and the reassuringly bright colors of her images. A conceptual artist who works with photography, Eder keeps a tight control of both her work's apparent subjects and her medium. This confidence makes her pictures seem reassuring; but they tend to become transparent, or at least translucent (if an idea can be said to be translucent) to the uncertainty that underpins "everyday life." ...

What most links the artist and the scientist in Eder's work is the practice of focused looking. But whereas we now doubt the observations of science because observation alters the phenomenon observed, the artist, and certainly Susan Eder, continue to convince us that what we used to call esthetic contemplation can reveal the truth....



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Washington City Paper (Vol. 11 No. 5, Feb. 1-7, 1991)
Susan Eder and John McIntosh at Jones Troyer Fitzpatrick Gallery
By Alice Thorson (excerpt; full text on request)

Where much recent photographic activity has been devoted to exposing how photographs lie, Washington artist Susan Eder employs photography to reveal certain truths. Less a documentarist than a kind of freewheeling social philosopher with a camera, Eder utilizes photography to illustrate and examine the economic values assigned to objects from everyday life....

Many of Eder's new works comprise pyramidal arrangements of individual photographs. Each piece compiles an assortment of examples of a particular category of object — flowers, zoo animals, bread, dogs, tropical fish — stacked so as to reflect the ascending monetary worth attached to different varieties.... [This] contains a tacit critique of commodity culture, in which value is often assigned in accordance with artificial considerations of fashion and relative scarcity, and the possession of "scarce" objects confers status. That viewers are inevitably drawn to test their own tastes and financial reach — in pets, cookies, etc. — against the hierarchies of work represented here encourages a level of personal involvement....



Susan Eder, Craig Dennis, artline
Artforum (November 1982)
Susan Eder, Siegel Contemporary Art and Marian Goodman Gallery
By Charles Hagen

In many of her earlier photographic works, Susan Eder plays one system of meaning off against another. This tactic has been familiar in art since Duchamp's Ready-mades, in which the formal qualities of common objects are ironically contrasted with their mundane functions. Eder's pieces too are humorous and heady.

...Eder treats natural phenomena — clouds, leaves — according to various systems of analysis and ordering. In each piece of her "Ghost Images" series of 1976-79, for example, she juxtaposes two postage-stamp-size color photographs, one of an animal, bird or fish, and the other of a cloud having exactly the same shape. At first it may seem that Eder is attempting to deflate the romantic metaphors layered onto natural phenomena. Where Alfred Stieglitz tried to find "Equivalents" for ineffable emotions in clouds, Eder pins them down with abstract logical systems. But in fact her comparisons cut both ways. Not only assumptions about nature, but notions of representation and signification in general — the other element in Eder's juxtapositions — are challenged as arbitrary. In fact Eder remains if anything a closet romantic, championing the poetic logic of "nature" against the culturally determined logic of sign systems.

[Other] work deals with two more unexpected ordering systems: origami and knots. Both involve the structural transformation of basic geometrical elements. In Origami Frog Dissection, 1982, her frog is folded out of paper that's gray on one side and pink on the other; as she slices into the object, folding back the flaps of its belly, it turns out that its skin is the gray side of the sheet while its insides are pink....

...In a final group Eder juxtaposes before-and-after photographs of objects that she slices through to form cross-sections. Some of the objects are variations of those in her other work — a blue origami bird, a knot in a gold-sheathed cord or in a rep tie — while some are new: a pink hyacinth, a small cactus. The resulting sectional views have none of the pristine clarity of draftmen's abstracted renderings; they're photographs, not drawings. And so they tell more about the desire to understand structure than about the specific structures being considered.



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