Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 10 (October 2000)

Anxious Narratives

Ullrich began using the computer to make collages of her photographs that resulted in "anxious narratives," without altering the visual integrity of the original pictures. Now she does so by scanning her photos into the computer and merging them with imagery she creates using Discreet's 3D Studio Max. She also uses RIO, an object-oriented program from Lucent Technologies, for laying out the compositions, and Adobe Systems' Photoshop for editing the individual elements and the final piece. "The digital environment has turned my attention more inward upon myself, my imagination, and my emotion landscape, whereas photography led me outward, to document the physical world," she says. The result is imagery that is exquisite yet often contains a touch of the grotesque-that in Ullrich's words depicts "a tangle of sexual anxieties, anger, revenge, and trauma."

Ullrich received a Master of Fine Arts degree in photography only last year, but she is already making a mark in the digital art world. For the past few years, her works have been shown in the Siggraph Art Gallery, and have been featured in Adobe's Digital Art Gallery on its Photoshop CD-ROM and in several books. Last year, Ullrich had her first solo exhibition in Chicago. She is currently employed at Adobe as a Web producer.

Despite the attention that her work has received, Ullrich believes there is a stigma attached to art that is created with digital technology. In fact, she says, some artists attempt to mask the "digital" origins of their work, striving for a "painterly" look, while critics tend to praise pieces when they can't "see" the technology be hind the work. "It's like praising a painting because you can't tell that paint was used to create it," the artist notes.

"These responses appear to mirror the same reception photography received as an art form when it was first introduced. The perception is that technology is cold in contrast to traditional art materials, which are perceived as warm and more conducive to self-expression. For me, working on the computer is intimate, transforming, and meaningful," Ullrich says. "Art should be judged on its ability to communicate ideas or emotions, or simply its spirit, not by some myopic preconceptions that people have about the tool used to create it."

These pages feature a selection of Ullrich's work.
- Karen Moltenbrey