“Exposed” Artist Profile: Beth Moon

Beth Moon

Beth Moon’s work is on view at the ICA in the exhibition Exposed: Today’s Photography/Yesterday’s Technology thru Sept 19, 2010.

The wondrous plants depicted in Beth Moon’s series The Savage Garden represent a botanical variety that blurs the line between the vegetable and animal kingdom. In addition to sunlight and water, these plants require a diet high in protein. Their seductive beauty attracts their food – insects, worms, tadpoles, lizards and small rats.  For instance, the transparent hood of the Cobra Lily is designed to retain and reflect light specifically to draw the attention of an insect. Tiny hairs in the Venus Fly Trap signal when a visitor enters the claw-like appendage, which will then snap shut, paralyzing and crushing the victim. Luring prey with an intoxicating scent, the external hairs of a Pitcher plant grow at an upward angle leading insects toward the top of a slippery lip where they fall like drunks and drown inside the trap.

Moon employs an equally seductive photographic process to depict these deceptively beautiful plants – a platinum printing technique that produces tones ranging from cool blacks to richer browns than can be obtained with traditional platinum printing methods. It requires no development. The process for making platinum prints was invented in 1873 and was popular until the 1920s when the price of platinum became prohibitively expensive. It was replaced by the somewhat cheaper palladium print, which employs a compound of the metal palladium rather than platinum. Both processes were valued for their great range of subtle tonal variations, which Moon has used so effectively in this series.

Beth Moon was born in Neenah, Wisconsin. Although she was a fine art major at the University of Wisconsin, she is a self-taught photographer. Her interest in photography was discovered somewhat indirectly while designing women’s clothes. Moon hired photographers to document her new designs, but quickly decided to do it herself. She later sold the design company and continued to pursue her interest in photography, experimenting with various printing methods.  She currently lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.