I. Senses related to the physical exertion of pressure.

1. a. To act on (an object) with continuous force directed towards it by means of physical contact; to exert a steady force against (something touched) by weight, a fingertip, etc.; to subject to pressure; (also) to crushTo press the button. b. To exert pressure; to bear with weight or force onupon, or against. c. To torture or execute (a person) by means of peine forte et dureTo press to death. d. To squeeze or hold (a person, a person’s hand, etc.) as a sign of affection; to hold lovingly to or against oneself. e. to press (the) flesh: to shake hands; to greet by physical contact. Now esp. in reference to people campaigning for political office.

2. To apply pressure to (something). a. To subject to pressure so as to reduce a particular shape, consistency, smoothness, thinness, or bulk, or so as to extract juice, etc., from; to compress, squeeze. b. To smooth or flatten (fabric or clothes) with an iron or clothes press; to iron. c. To flatten & dry (leaves, flowers, etc.) in order to preserve them. d. To manufacture (a gramophone record) by moulding under pressure. Hence: to make or issue (a sound recording). Also with up.

3. To extract pressure; to express; to squeeze (liquid, juice, etc.) from or out of something.

4. To cause to move in a particular direction, or into a certain position, by pressure of contact; to push, drive, or thrust down, forward, into, etc.

5. To print.

[definition from the Oxford English Dictionary]

Every time a photograph is taken, there’s an acknowledgement of loss—the scene, the environment, the subject, the file, and even the change that takes place immediately after the photographer presses down the shutter button—everything breaks down. Left are memories and traces, the stories we tell repeatedly to ourselves, only able to let others in on fragments of our experience. Three of the main themes in my current research include: pressure versus the act of pressing; creation from destruction; and, revealing the beautiful within the grotesque. I use the scanner and letterpress printing to draw the viewer uncomfortably close, and I search for the sublime in personal histories of the body. I flip the power of pressure, and actively engage in the verb press. I am especially interested when the physical process itself embodies part of the concept, such as in the persistent and unrelenting actions involved in the action of pressing. Inspired by Emily Dickinson—for her words, her envelope poems (poetry written on scraps of paper, recipes, or envelopes), and how she pressed and preserved nature in various indexing formats (including her extensive herbarium of pressed botanical specimens), I started pushing objects and images onto fabric or paper with type-high materials in a press bed, to manipulating garments and pressing them with other materials in a camera-less scanner. My visual language is personal and intimate, with materials chosen because they reflect the aftermath of intensity, with references to bodily fluids and the carnal. I search for beauty in devastation, examining the external and the internal, sex and violence, and the sudden and the gradual (in regards to the alchemy that takes places as part of the process). The act of pressing it against the glass or in a press creates an intimate map: the folds make valleys and peaks with thread that has touched intimate places the viewer hasn’t, the liquids mix together and continuously transform in the course of capturing the image, and there’s a violation to the most intimate parts of the body—revealed to the viewer in a voyeuristic manner.


with one eye squinted

In 1963, Joseph Albers (German-American artist, poet, printmaker, and educator) published “Interaction of Color,” which presented his theory that colors are governed by an internal and deceptive logic. In the first section of the book, Albers writes: “If one says ‘Red’ (the name of a color) and there are 50 people listening, it can be expected that there will be 50 reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds are very different. Even when a certain color is specified which all listeners have seen innumerable times—such as the red of the Coca-Cola signs which is the same red all over the country—they will still think of many different reds” (Albers 3). My own experience of color and perception is at times unique, partly because of several grand mal seizures when I was younger, violent migraines ongoing, and other afflictions, which add to the different ways that I process the world around me and recall my memories. I have come to find the beauty in these limitations; they cause me to see things differently based on how my distinctive visual and optical experience mixes with my own encounters and history of passion and pain. In an episode of This American Life, titled Something Only I Can See, Ira Glass asks the first guest to describe the colors he sees that no one else can: “it’s like if black was fluorescent, with a hint of green,” which Glass repeats back to him as if that is not possible to comprehend, then proceeds to ask the guest a series of questions to try to get at what these colors are that flash before his eyes: “Is the color like butter melting on a piece of warm toast? Like kissing someone you have just fallen in love with? Getting punched in the stomach repeatedly?” Even if we are limited by our language and output, I search for ways to communicate my optical sensations and personal, yet often shared, histories.

Echoing the flashes of colors I experience with ‘auras’ of migraine attacks, and sensitivity to certain warm hues, I am researching color through the history of photography, building my own camera obscuras, pigmentation of inks, preserving objects using carbon paper, and through the technology of the camera. In her diaries, southern gothic writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote: “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” For O’Connor this alludes to how one aims a shotgun, but the action is also mimicked when looking through a viewfinder, or straining through pain, or to see things more clearly. I’m interested in how the camera (and technology) captures color, how it exists in memory, how each person perceives it—especially during times of pain or pleasure—even with one eye squinted.

Victoria Marie Bee