Springville Exhibit by Amber Foote

Interview by Corinne Geertsen

See Amber Foote’s wonderful Herald article:

The Springville Museum of Art’s latest exhibit pulls viewers into a world of dreams and whimsy mingled with history.

“Beyond Memory: The Daydreams of Corinne Geertsen,” opened this month and explores the imagination of Arizona artist Corinne Geertsen. Inserting old photos of ancestors into digitally assembled images, Geertsen creates pictures that blend fact and fancy and tell visual narratives about her subjects.

“Her work is magical, it draws you in,” said Rita Wright, director of the Springville Museum of Art. “We called this exhibit ‘Beyond Memory’ because you feel like you should recognize these pictures. They feel familiar, but you can’t quite remember where you’ve seen them before.

Geertsen, who lives in Mesa, Ariz., was born in Salt Lake City and grew up in Great Falls, Montana. Her roots, however, go back to Springville, where several of her ancestors lived. It was her ancestors who launched her on an artistic journey to create stories that went along with their vintage photos.

“I have always enjoyed our large collection of old family photos,” Geertsen said. “I would study them and wonder what this or that person had been doing before the photograph and what he would do later that day. I wondered what they were thinking right when the shutter snapped.”

In 2006, Geertsen took a Photoshop class at a local college. “My idea was to learn to restore my old family photos,” she said. “A few weeks into the class I began to see the people in the photos as characters in dramas. I’ve been making these pictures ever since.”

Geertsen starts with a photo of an ancestor and after digitally removing the person from the photo, places them on a white background and moves on to what she calls the “Yikes Method.”

“I add in another person, a violin, a hippo, a fish,” Geertsen said. “It‘s very random. I call it auditioning. If the new addition doesn’t look good with the person I began with, it’s “yikes” and I move it out and try a new one. I’m looking for something or someone that looks quite good visually with what’s already there, and perhaps suggests a story. The story gradually materializes out of thin air while I’m choosing objects for the picture.”

Using a digital brush, Geertsen then paints layer upon layer of color, texture, light and shadows until there are over a hundred layers in her picture.

“It’s photoshopping at its most glorious and inventive,” said Wright. “The feeling you get with these photographs is that you’ve entered a time machine and you’re looking out the window and seeing contemporary landscapes or subject matter, and yet the vintage photographs she uses are warm and inviting and take you back in time.”

Geertsen expanded her availability of photo subjects when she received permission from Brigham Young University to work with the school’s George Edward Anderson photo collection. Anderson was an early photographer who lived in Springville and was also at one point a business partner of Geertsen’s great-grandfather.

“I feel like I’m completing a circle by being partners with George Edward Anderson now,” said Geertsen.

She also hopes the people in her pictures — who she places in surreal and often humorous predicaments — can appreciate their role in her artistry.

“I hope all these ancestors have a sense of humor,” Geertsen said.

Clouded by Corinne Geertsen

Follow Corinne Geertsen on Facebook. Looking forward to seeing you there.