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Why members of the local art scene took note of Kirsten Hoving’s ethereal photographic works soon after she moved to Charleston

Why members of the local art scene took note of Kirsten Hoving’s ethereal photographic works soon after she moved to Charleston
June 2022

Her art is included in four exhibits this month. Find out where you can see it.

The artist with Marsh Light I and Marsh Light II (photos on aluminum, 30 x 40 inches, 2021), from the same series.

It didn’t take long after Kirsten Hoving moved to Charleston in 2019 for the local art scene to take notice of her work. Viewers told her they hadn’t seen anything similar to the otherworldly mixed-media photographs, sometimes printed on translucent silk organza and layered over an identical image, coming out of her studio at Redux Contemporary Art Center.

With a BFA in studio art, an MA in art history, and a PhD in art history from Columbia University, Hoving spent nearly four decades teaching art history at Middlebury College in Vermont before moving to Charleston to become a full-time artist. She has exhibited her altered photos and mixed-media works all over the world. Locally, she has a solo show opening this month at Summerville’s Public Works Art Center. She’s also participating in three group shows: Many Moons at Robert Lange Studios, Cover to Cover at Gallery 26 at The Vendue, as well as at Redux.

(Left) Luna (photograph on silk mounted over a second digital photograph, 7.5 x 7.5 inches, 2022); (Right) In Hoving’s mixed-media photographic work, After Apple Picking (15 x 15 inches, 2019), a rustic ladder rests against the leafy branches of an apple tree, with no hint of where it begins or ends. Adding to the mystery, the photo is printed on translucent silk organza and layered over an identical second photograph, giving it a Victorian-era holographic effect.

Here, Hoving talks about her first Lowcountry-centric body of work, “Moving Coastal.” This collection features nature scenes that suggest coastal landscapes but are vague enough the viewer can’t identify precisely what they’re seeing.

Passage (archival digital photograph on cold-press paper, 16 x 20 inches, 2021) part of artist Kirsten Hoving’s ”Moving Coastal” collection, inspired by her new home in the Lowcountry.

Moving Coastal: This series of digital prints was my introduction to Charleston. I’m interested in exploring Lowcountry landscapes but producing photos that are more universal than specific. This series looks like pastel drawings because they’re printed on cold-press paper that has a texture or on aluminum panels. I shoot with a Lens Baby, a flexible lens you can focus manually. I like that you wouldn’t know a subject is Folly Beach, for example, but it might remind you of Folly Beach. I’m interested in how far I can go artistically before I lose the subject and how a piece can be both abstract and still have a semblance of the subject.

The Creative Process: It’s very intuitive—I just play. I print directly on silk with my printer, mount the silk on plexiglass, and play with saturation and color by creating a digital underprint or a paper collage layer. There’s a lot of trial and error—actually a lot of error. Not every image will work in the silk process; it has to be something where translucence makes sense. I’ve also had to learn how to treat the underprint and block things out. It’s always a question of what to include and what not to include. A lot of what I’m doing is in dialogue with the materials.

Settling in Charleston: Being able to devote myself to my art is such a gift. I wake up every day, and I can’t wait to get to my studio and see what I’m going to make—or not make. Charleston is such an art-centered place; I love the gallery scene; our museums are fantastic, and there’s really interesting art everywhere you turn.

The Takeaway: I hope my work encourages viewers to widen their definitions of photography as a medium that can go beyond the recording function we usually associate with the camera and realize that it can be a powerful medium for creative self-expression.