By Jess T. Dugan | January 23, 2020
Jess T. Dugan: Hello Tabitha! Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I often begin these interviews by asking about an artist’s path to discovering and pursuing photography, but as I was researching your work and life, I learned of your previous career working in television, notably covering politics for MTV as well as covering the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton and George Bush senior (and winning a Peabody Award for Excellence in Journalism). So, I will still ask the same question, but with that as a background framework: how did you move into fine art photography after your career in television, and what was your path to getting to where you are today?
Tabitha Soren: I come from a military family so I had an itinerant childhood. I was born in San Antonio, TX, but I moved to Sacramento, CA, Tucson, AZ, Homestead, FL, Narragansett, RI, Irmenach, Germany, and Las Vegas, NV all before second grade….
With his wife, Laura, retired ad man Fred Bidwell has enriched Cleveland culture through the Transformer Station, FRONT Triennial, Canvas City Mural Project and more.
Cleveland Scene: By Dott von Schneider
“My favorite painting in the whole world is at the Cleveland Museum of Art, it’s a Turner and the inspiration for this,” confesses artist Tabitha Soren as she points to the photograph behind us. Over the image floats a tsunami swish of oranges and yellows that harken back to the JMW Turner painting to which she refers — “The Burning of the House of Lords and Commons, 16 October 1934.” Turner speaks of man’s helplessness when face to face with the awesome destructive power of nature.
Soren’s image along with three additional landscapes along the same wall confront environmental destruction caused by the fingerprint of humankind. What the viewer sees, after a seriously deep artistic process, is a wave of bacteria and sweat that exude a prismatic rainbow effect. Greenland, in case you weren’t totally aware, is the second largest island after Australia. Soren says, “There are so many people that have visited that it’s shrinking in size because of erosion and the impact on it.”
The four images are writ large in 80” x 60” format. The artist explains, “I’m using an 8×10 camera that has an 8×10 negative in it, so it’s basically the size of an iPad, and then the surface area I’m shooting is an iPad, not a phone and that’s the exponential difference, right? So it’s about four times the size, so when you look at something like that, very close up, the sweat and the bacteria become a prism, here it looks like smudge, but with the light on it, it turns it into all these rainbow bits, which is also the reason why the scale is so important. If I made them 8×10’s, even online you wouldn’t be able to see the detail.”
Artist Tabitha Soren speaks with Channel 3 about her new exhibition, Surface Tension, on view now through January 19, 2020 at Transformer Station.