CPI Journal October 1998: Lisa Bloomfield: Story Telling and Pattern Recognition
by Edward Wadden Earle (media curator: International Center of Photography, NYC)


To share a story is a fundamental human need. Whether it is simply relating what happened during the day, a Homeric myth, the Jewish Passover, or an item on the TV news, the impulse to create a narrative is a constant that runs throughout the human species. However, the telling of a story is often very selective. When we tell a personal anecdote we often eliminate elements that do not contribute to the end. We emphasize certain points to make the story more humorous, more dramatic, or a stronger moral tale. We sacrifice parts to create a better whole. This is very similar to the process of writing history. As historians focus on their topic they prepare systematic arguments including citations that support their thesis. It is only human to eliminate parts of history which might contradict the telling of the story. The historian might do this to simply create greater cohesiveness and eliminate confusion-however, it is within the realm of confusion that we live our lives.

It is similarly within the realm of contradiction and broken expectations that Lisa Bloomfield has been exploring narrative structures and new tools for telling a story. For over a decade she has created works employing images and text, combined into a new whole through computer transformation. Anonymous "found" images are given new life as participants in short paired panels. In the "Motivation" series formal portraits of mercantile men are paired with stories that begin to,break through the facade and into the realm of emotion. The images and text reside on decorative patterned fields which contribute to the emotional quality of the partially told stories. In the reading, the images and text modify each other but the dialectical differences become whole partially through the ground upon which they reside -- the seemingly innocuous patterned background. In more recent works, Bloomfield has brought the background to the foreground. The repetitive patterns themselves have become the subject.

Pattern Recognition

Perceptual psychologists who study visual acuity in humans are interested in the ability to see hard edges. The passage from light to dark, from color to color are the points where perception becomes cognition. Pattern recognition comes down to the transitional edges, not the large areas of uniformity. It is through difference and contrast that we come to see and understand the world. Bloomfield's "Patterned After" series plays with the repeated decorative elements in wall paper. These mechanical patterns, intended to create a pleasant domestic ambiance, demonstrate the imperfection in all things upon close inspection. The repetitions are subject to human whimsy in ball point pen or to flourishes of color amid monochrome monotony. The mismatched seams and human interventions create transitional areas, like the confusion of a narrative that does not follow a logical course. We recognize the patterns but must work at moving from perception to cognition in understanding Bloomfield's prints. By bringing the background to the foreground Bloomfield allows us to become metaphorically a part of the picture. Beyond the facade, the fashionable clothes, and the college degrees, we all have personal patterns amid secrets and stains. Perhaps the human's rage is not against chaos, but against conformity.


(6 color ink jet prints)