2017 Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography


Amanda Means has been awarded a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship for her recent abstractions.


On April 7th, 2017, Means was one of the 173 scholars, artists and scientists to be granted a Guggenheim Fellowship by the Board of Trustees of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.  Appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of nearly 3,000 applicants in the Foundation’s competition.


Means was raised on a farm in Marion, a small town farming community in Upstate New York.  She is widely known for her large and luminous photographic images of flowers and plant life made without a camera.  She uses similar techniques for her subsequent Water Glass and Light Bulb series.  Scott Hall of the New York Times describes the effect of these techniques: "Her transformation of ordinary household objects into sublime Minimal art is not only evident in the bulb series, but also in the black and white prints of water glasses...Sweaty, chipped and scratched vessels monumentally fill the frame, revealing the beauty in the mundane."


Means’ more recent abstractions, which she began experimenting with in the early 1990’s, are made by a time-consuming process of manually folding, crushing and exposing light sensitive silver gelatin paper in many different directions. The result is a myriad of overlapping shapes, lines and surface cracks.  Artist Dianne Blell writes:


"Amanda Means is a truly inventive photographer who, with the wizardry of a chemist's mastery, and inventor's skill in her technical darkroom innovations, allows the creative process to flow, producing shockingly exquisite images. These images are scaled to amplify their intrinsic and highly textured sensuality, qualities of a unique and innately fleeting nature.  By virtue of her newly developed, extremely labor intensive process of intricately folding, refolding, cross-folding, exposing, developing... she is sculpting physically unique photographic abstractions of a three-dimensional nature."


Since these new abstractions are made by hand, using only the skillful manipulation of paper, light and chemistry, Means describes them as drawings.  She has greatly simplified her imagery, saying, “I want to focus attention on the infinite and beautifully nuanced gray tones that are at the core of the medium of photography. I find that it isn’t necessary to have a lot of things to look at in a picture other than these tones, cracks and folds and the ways they interact.  Seen on their own, without any recognizable object, these works become more intense, powerful and clear, similar to the clarity I felt as a child while watching the shifting sunlight on our hayfields.”


Means plans to use the Guggenheim Fellowship to work with toning these photographic drawings. “By adding the use of bleaches and toners, it is possible to make abstractions with lovely colors such as blue-blacks, yellows, golden browns, yellow browns, reds, salmons, aubergines, and oranges,” she says.


Amanda Means is a graduate of Cornell University and SUNY Buffalo.  She has exhibited widely in the US and abroad and is included in numerous collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; the MIT List Visual Arts Center; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.; the W.M. Hunt Collection Dancing Bear, NYC; the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston; and the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford, England. 


After living in NYC for 35 years, Means moved to Beacon, NY in 2008.  Due to her concern for the ongoing destruction of the natural world, she is an activist in the climate-change movement.


For more images, please view the Abstractions galleries on this site.


 "Folded and Crushed 32, 2016," 30 x 30 inches. Silver gelatin print, unique.

"Folded and Crushed 32, 2016," 30 x 30 inches. Silver gelatin print, unique.