When was the last time you took a moment to really look at an eggshell? After clearing out its insides, have you recently -- or even ever -- paused to admire the delicate surface of an egg and its fragile, jagged edges?
ArtistJess Landau took notice of these everyday, found materials and, instead of discarding them like she had so many times before, transformed the little shells into works of art.
Landau's unusual artistic process began after a lifelong friend committed suicide in November of 2013. The abrupt tragedy, and the artist's subsequent attempts to come to terms with the loss, led Landau to explore her experiences and emotions through non-verbal expression. Yet in her search for the proper method, Landau found the normal artistic avenues didn't seem quite right.
"Because I was looking for a tactile outlet to explore my new curiosities through, I began noticing fragile surfaces on which I could work," she explained to The Huffington Post. "I felt that traditional materials -- different papers, wood, etc. -- were far too stable and concrete for this delicate situation. It was also during this time that I was learning how to use liquid emulsion."
Liquid emulsion is the liquid chemical that makes makes paper light-sensitive, allowing images to be projected onto them through a darkroom printing process. "Liquid emulsion will only adhere to surfaces that have a tooth -- shiny and smooth surfaces like glass and certain plastics don't work unless you sand-blast them," the artist explained. "Eggshells have an appropriate texture for the emulsion to cling to."
First Landau photographed her models using a hand-me-down 35mm Minolta camera from her brother. She then developed the images by hand in a wet lab and printed them herself using traditional darkroom methods, with a few modifications.
Because of the eggshells' curved shape, Landau applied several layers of emulsion evenly in a tedious and time-consuming process. The exposure time of each image was additionally complicated by the shells' concavity. "As the images are projected down into the eggshell, the light that enters the interior of the eggshell bounces around inside of it. If the walls of the eggshell were higher, less time was required to make the exposure." Thus no two eggshells required the same timing, making each process unique.
Despite the added difficulty of printing on eggshells instead of paper, the extra efforts were well worth it for the project's stunning, and therapeutic, results.
"Everything clicked in the moment that I decided that the eggshell was the perfect canvas for my needs," Landau explained. "I began collecting cartons of broken shells for several months. Even cleaning the eggshells was highly therapeutic -- there is a strong metaphor I felt by caring for a material that would otherwise be thrown away. I saw great beauty in the clean white walls and the broken edges of the eggshells."
Landau's portraits, as detailed as they are delicate, communicate just how intertwined life's beauty and its fragility are. The nude subjects in all their unclothed vulnerability appear almost as if they're about to be born from the egg they reside in. The moving photo series reveals how an unlikely canvas can serve not just as a technical feat but also a poetic meditation on the potential of art.
As Landau put it: "Life is fragile and temporary, and it should be cradled in the palms of our hands -- which is the process that I engaged with as I delicately created each of these works manually, with my hands."
See her thoughtful works below and let us know your thoughts.