Robert V. Fullerton Art Museum
5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino
(909) 537-7373 museum.csusb.edu
Beth Steffel's giclée prints record the transience of her color-saturated, molded-ice constructions -- objects she calls temporary, site-specific sculptures. A combination of intent focus and meditation on the interplay between order and entropy, Steffel's photographs of these voluptuous ephemeral shapes capture the raked, pitted surfaces of striated ice and crystalline structure exposed by elapsed time and inevitable melt-off.
The prints, with their appealingly intricate compositional structure, bold color choices, and variegated surfaces, are merely the final step in a process driven by observation and reflection. The disintegration of the sculptures results from the materials of their fabrication: the work's demise is embedded in its conception. The beauty of decay, a memento mori, is apparent in the photos. Surfaces glisten, volumes are speckled with air bubbles, and water droplets form on thin, craggy points of ice. Steffel describes the photographic record as a series of numbered investigations, and in numbering her prints rather than providing literary or narrative titles, she posits the mantle of scientific inquiry.
Steffel's use of the camera communicates precision, patience, and intimacy with her materials. With her inventive constructions -- marvelous objects themselves -- and the clarity of her prints, Steffel delivers a visually exquisite collection. The sensuality of her images and centrality of her process contribute to their formal lushness. Steffel's finely composed photographs exclude a horizon or any traditional reference to landscape, which creates a self-contained world and the illusion of stepping, however briefly, out of time.