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Nicole Donnely

Zelda Zinn 

Zelda Zinn was born with a crayon in her mouth and a book in her hand, and she grew up drawing and dreaming up contraptions. She fell in love with photography at age 10, and has only rarely regretted it. She went to an arts high school before studying the classics at St. John’s College and then the University of New Mexico, receiving an MA and an MFA in photography. She taught for many years, and loved to make photo enthusiasts of her students. She likes to get her hands dirty with printing, painting, and making sculpture. She was fortunate to be awarded artist’s residencies to the Santa Fe Art Institute, Vermont Studio Center, Akron Soul Train, The Arctic Circle, La Wayaka Current, and The Morgan Papermaking Conservatory (upcoming). They have had a profound impact on her art making. She continues to be amazed by the worlds of nature and the imagination.

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Artist Statement 

In the fall of 2019, I had the life-altering experience of attending an artist’s residency aboard a tall sailing ship within the Arctic Circle. While I had applied with the idea of working with marine debris, it was not inspiring, and I turned my attention to the mind-bending vast frozen landscape. It wasn’t until months later, during that first uncertain Covid lockdown, that I figured out an approach. I found myself pondering the deep time and space of the Arctic vs human time and scale. During the Great Age of Discovery, competing expeditions set out to search for the Northwest Passage while loved ones often never knew their fates. Thinking about this human history of the north, I felt drawn to overlay something manmade on top of the vast vistas. These veneers would provide reassuring traces of culture, of home, of life in more hospitable climes. I chose fabrics and laces, a reminder of those left waiting and wondering back at home. The contrast between fabricated, ordered patterns and the unpredictable landscapes highlights the unfathomable gap between our brief mortal experience and the endurance of the natural world. The resulting hybrid photographs combine interior and exterior, exotic and familiar. 


In my new-found obsession with the glacial ice, I started fashioning “fauxbergs” from paper and paint in the studio. To reference 19th century expeditions, I rendered the photos in photogravure, removing them further from their studio origins. Finally, I am currently working on a series of images in which I am rendering the Arctic landscape in linear half-tones, reminiscent of early engravings, and overlaying them with aluminum gilding. In all of my experiments I hope to considering the impenetrable and yet fragile Arctic from a human frame. 

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