Three Graces
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© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Frederick Sommer
American, USA, 1985
Gelatin silver print
9 9/16 x 7 5/8 in.

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Starting in the 1960s, Frederick Sommer produced a series of paper "sculptures" that he then photographed. He cut sheets of butcher-block paper using a razor blade, transforming them into abstract patterns. But these incisions were anything but random; his creations were often inspired by images he found in the hundreds of books he kept on shelves in his workshop. Hanging his paper creations from clips a few feet in front of a wall, he carefully lit them--the shapes, light, and shadow providing a sense of depth and kinetic energy.

The inspiration for this piece is the legend of the Three Graces, fertility goddesses from Greek mythology. Light penetrates the slits, suggesting three bodies dancing together. The composition is less about extremes of light and dark, and more about midtones--the subtle differences in grays contained in the spectrum between white and black.