The Science and Engineering Library in Lederle never seems to be at rest.
The computers in the foyer are always all occupied, the staffers behind the circulation and reference desk never stand still, and there’s a constant stream of marching students coming in and out the library’s double doors. It’s frenetic, restless, and oddly quiet, except for the sound of students tapping on keyboards and fingers turning pages in books.
But for those few who pause to notice their surroundings, there is a reward. The walls here are lined with art. The Lederle library has played host to some of Marty Klein’s artwork since September, and will continue to exhibit it through December 28th.
Marty Klein is a local artist specializing in scanography, which in its simplest form is the meeting point between photography and scanning. Klein is a 62 year old UMass alumni with a Masters in Regional Planning, and seems to be perpetually at ease. He feels that scanography helps him depict nature in an unusual way, which helps him differentiate himself from other nature photographers.
At its core, scanography is about making art using scanners. It is a lesser-known art form, and the images it produces tend to live in the space between photography and illustration. Klein seems to lean towards the illustrative side of the spectrum, and the semi-abstract results of his method are eyecatching.
Klein, a self-professed forager, depicts the natural world in his art.
“I have a love of nature and I enjoy sharing that with other people, and I’ve been doing that for a good part of my life [as a nature photographer],” said Klein, speaking to why his work is so exclusively focused on the natural world.
“I’m just so fascinated with what I see in nature, I like to portray details that other people may pass by that I see…there’s something about nature that is true. Truth and beauty. I know it sounds corny, but there’s no politics, there’s no economy, it is what it is, it’s nature.” Klein finishes this thought with an inflected finality.
Standing in the busy foyer of Lederle, it’s easy to see how Klein’s detail-oriented mission is relevant.
Klein’s work certainly highlights the unobserved facets of the natural world, and it does that in part by showing us natural objects from new perspectives, and in new types of compositions. He says this is why he so enjoys working with mushrooms, because they are another often overlooked aspect of the world we live in. It seems Marty may enjoy working with natural subjects because they are free of the sort of emotional and intellectual baggage that we associate with manmade items.
Klein depicts only the natural world in his work, even while working so closely with technology.
“I know its a total contradiction and irony that I’m portraying nature, but in order to do that, I have to use high tech equipment to do that, and I do it indoors as opposed to outdoors. But, life is full or ironies,” he said.
As a self-taught artist, Klein has no formal artistic training. After graduating from UMass with his Masters, he went on to a wide variety of professions, including but not limited to; working as an artist blacksmith, regional planner, board member on a local land trust, grant writer, and flower seller at the Boston wholesale market. But for Klein, his academic and professional experience seem largely irrelevant to his artistic pursuits. In a life led eclectically, nature photography has been a constant, and eventually it led him towards scanography. He began experimenting with it in 2006.
Like every medium, scanography has its limitations. One of those is the difficulty of needing a bulky scanner in order to create, which makes on-site work impractical for artists like Klein. Klein also discussed the challenge of working with perishable objects, but thought that the spacial limitations a scanner presented were more significant.
“I’m constrained by this small area I’m working in, I can only fit so much in there,” he said.
This is a sentiment Ellen Hoverkamp echos.
Hoverkamp is a retired art teacher from Westhaven Connecticut. Her voice is spirited, and her thoughts spill over the phone with a sort of infectious enthusiasm. She and Klein have never met, but they share a fascination for nature. A practicing scanographer since 1997, and a fan of Klein’s work, Hoverkamp offers a little insight into an early point in scanography.
She approaches scanography as a type of photography, and in fact became interested in it as an alternative to digital photography at a time when digital cameras were prohibitively expensive. The genesis of her involvement in scanography is reflected in her approach to the medium. Hoverkamp’s compositions are clearly inspired by her enthusiasm for photography. On the illustrative/photographic spectrum, Hoverkamp is Klein’s opposite.
The natural world’s allure to Hoverkamp seems to come from both different and similar places than Klein’s.
“I’m trying to document the ephemeral, the fleeting aspect of nature and time… I think thats the reason I focus on nature,” said Hoverkamp, speaking to why she too focuses on the natural world. In this way she means to highlight the beauty and detail of the natural world, something scanography seems particularly proficient at.
But she too goes on to express enthusiasm for nature’s freedom from human conditions, in relation to both her own and Klein’s work.
“Despite everything else the beauty of nature prevails and it doesn’t care where it grows,
it does that despite socioeconomic status,” said Hoverkamp.
According to Klein, that sort of freedom is what scanography is all about. His advice to people interested getting involved is just to jump in, “Talent is good, but it’s overrated, it’s really about just getting to the work.”