Tracy Abbott Szatan


I’m a lens-based artist working with video, photography, glass, and installation to explore the tenuous and shifting edges between the perceptible and the imperceptible. My work engages histories of imaging technologies and the materiality of human and nonhuman perception in order to activate the poetic possibilities humming both within and just beyond our perceptual experience.

Working with glass, I create sculptural objects and handmade lenses to film, project video and shape light in unusual ways. I am drawn to the physicality of light and how it functions as an aesthetic link between the material and immaterial. Inspired by topics in math and physics, such as knot and quantum theories, I create objects and installations that consider the nature of nature and our perception of it. In contrast to the historical uses of glass for focus, control, and capture, I use glass’s refractive possibilities to generate shifting, luminescent forms that reveal realities of co-existing multiplicities. Amidst an increasingly demanding informational environment, these installations offer sites for contemplation.

In photographic prints, I consider the materiality of photography and through photographic abstractions I push against photography’s historical imperative to name and narrativize. These works often emerge in the darkroom from the interplay of light and directly applied materials, no camera or photographic negative is involved. I’m curious about the roads not taken in the development of this technology and the possibilities that arise therein, particularly the non-representational potential of a medium synonymous with representation.

In recent video work, I explore the relationship of optical technologies to earth materials, particularly the relationship of glass to sand. This piece emerged from a consideration of silica sand as the composite material for glass and glass as a keystone for contemporary photography and image making. With footage filmed at a sand mine, a glass manufacturing facility, and a nanotech fabrication lab, I consider the natural and manmade transformations that are the bases of photography and other communication technologies. As I reveal some of the opaque processes behind the production of glass and silicon chips, I question the taken-for-granted use of these materials, juxtapose human and geologic timescales, and grapple with the poetry of these materials alongside their inherent relation to extraction and industrial processes.

Across my practice I work with the materiality of light – through video, photography, glass, and installation – in order to access the interstitial spaces where materials and visualities are in flux, at the edge of perception where a sense of immanence, precarity, and possibility all gather.