About the Photographer
American, b. 1962
Concerns with nature, the body, and the processes of visual representation lie at the core of Alice Hargrave’s photographic works. In a number of her projects, Hargrave incorporates medical imagery. When the artist's mother required PET scans, she saw in the films an invasive form of portraiture that speaks to the ways in which technology informs modern life and to themes of vulnerability. Positron Emmission Tomography (PET) is intended to observe and record the inner workings of the body, but in Hargrave’s hands, the technology becomes a more expressive tool. “Bleeding Hearts, PET Scan Brain” depicts cross-sections of Hargrave’s mother’s brain, in order from top to bottom, combining the rigorous processes of scientific observation with the emotional charge of intense colors. The title further shifts our interpretation from the clinical to the figurative or poetic. The image “Woven Spine, PET Scan” is also a composite of scans from Hargrave’s mother. The checkerboard pattern of alternating positive and negative images suggests the warp and weft of woven fabrics. Hargrave notes that African commemorative cloths, which create patterns from symbols of the body, serve as a reference point in some of her works; although she uses a computer to do the weaving in this case, the PET scan becomes a technological extension of the tradition of using cloth to tell a story.
The images in “Found Stone/Gallstone” extend Hargrave's explorations of the body's internal operations and the ways they are represented visually. Hargrave began collecting rocks as a child. As an adult she began to consider the body’s ability to create rocks of its own, in the form of gallstones. She was also struck by how indistinguishable the body's gallstones are from rocks of geologic origins, a natural ambiguity that is underlined in her photographs. When she exhibited this work, Hargrave presented 25 gallstones intermingled with rocks from her childhood collection, creating an arrangement like a rock garden.
The series Home (movies) address a different set of concerns while still engaging with the nature of different visual imaging technologies. To create these works, Hargrave digitally captures frames from her family’s 8mm vacation films that had been transferred to video. In subjecting her chosen clips to several acts of translation—from film to video, then from video to a computer monitor, and finally from screen capture to a tangible pigment print—she creates a sense of temporal and psychological distance between the original scene and its final manifestation. The successive process of mediating these images, with a gradual loss in clarity, suggests the effects of time on memory.
Born in Chicago, Hargrave earned a BA from Tulane University, New Orleans (1984) and an MFA from University of Illinois, Chicago (1994). She teaches photography at Columbia College Chicago.