ASHEVILLE ART MUSEUM ADDS BEN NIXON TO COLLECTION
A stunning photograph by Asheville-area photographer Ben Nixon has been acquired by the Asheville Art Museum for their permanent collection.
Nixon creates landscapes of extraordinary beauty through the unwieldy nineteenth-century wet-plate collodion process, a hands-on photographic technique that offers the artist tight control of materials and yet invites serendipitous visual irregularities influenced by conditions in the field. Nixon avoids photographing recognizable landscapes, transforming non-iconic terrain into mysterious, intriguing worlds.
The piece chosen by the Asheville Art Museum is “Creek near Saluda,” a 44” x 35” toned gelatin silver print, number two from an edition of five. Printed from a glass plate, it was made in 2010 as Nixon traveled the South to capture Southern landscapes. “When I processed this plate in the back of my car,” says Nixon, “I was excited to see the wonderful collaboration between maker and process. Sometimes it works and sometimes it interferes.”
Nixon prefers older technologies so that he can slow down and respond to the subject in front of him. While shooting in the field, Nixon’s car becomes the darkroom, because in the collodion process, glass-plate negatives have to be prepared, exposed, and developed on-site while the materials are moist. If the plates dry, they are no longer light sensitive. Although Nixon is a master technician, he sets aside academic ideas of what constitutes a perfect print, preferring to show his hand as an artist.
“This year is an exciting one,” says Nixon. “It started with the honor of having this piece in the Asheville Art Museum. Now, with help from the Asheville Area Arts Council Grant, I’m working on a master set of toned gelatin silver prints that will be used for future books. I have two wet plate collodion bodies of work going at the moment, one in the South and one in the West. My dream would be to publish a two volume set that incorporates both bodies of work.”
Nixon grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where in high school a book about Minor White changed his life. He realized that photography was more than a documentary medium; it could be an integral part of one’s life as an avenue of self-expression. This inspiration led him to attend Sierra Nevada College in the Lake Tahoe region and then to study photography at Rockport College (now Maine Media College) on the east coast.
In 2002, Nixon began what he considers his real education when he moved to California to assist Jack Welpott, with whom he worked for 5 1/2 years and from whom he learned to appreciate metaphysical and surrealist aspects of photography. Afterward, Nixon assisted Arno Rafael Minkkinen on West Coast projects and printed for Arthur Tress, William Heick, and Art Rogers, and he continues to collaborate with many artists.
In addition to the Asheville Art Museum, Nixon’s work may be seen in the Greenville County Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, The Center for Fine Art Photography, and SFO Museum. His prints are part of the permanent collections of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Bolinas Museum, as well as many private collections throughout the United States.
Nixon is represented by The Haen Gallery and a collection of his prints may currently be seen in both of their galleries: in Asheville at 52 Biltmore Avenue and in Brevard at 200 King Street. For more information about this talented artist, please contact The Haen Gallery at (828) 254-8577 or visit their website at thehaengallery.com.