Melissa Penley Cormier: Fret & Focus

Once the first microscopes were developed in the early 17th century, it became commonplace for specimens to be pressed between discs of transparent mica to hold them firmly in place as they were seen and studied. Two centuries later, photography became a valued tool in both capturing data and sharing images of what magnification might reveal, “unmarked” — as Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison described it in their book, Objectivity (2007) — “by prejudice or skill, fantasy or judgement, wishing or striving.” In a recent project, Fret & Focus, Melissa Penley Cormier has purposefully, charmingly, and with a touch of humor made both microscopic slides and images of them to pit objectivity and subjectivity against one other. Every day for one year, Cormier gathered physical samples of the things that she was concerned with and worried about; then she made slides from those samples that she went on to archive, photograph, and makes viewable through a variety of viewing devices. “Cobbled together projectors,” she has said, help her to “enlarge and explore hidden details of collected specimens,” face her fears, and — as importantly and through quasi-scientific means — “start new conversations.”

Fret & Focus will be presented at UMBC’s Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture from April 13-28, 2017