We recently had the great pleasure of catching up with a very talented artist named May Benton! If you’ve been to SummerHouse recently, you’ve undoubtedly seen her work. It’s simply stunning, and so different! May tells us a little about herself and her work in this quick little interview!
1. Tell us about you in a nutshell!
Born and raised in Jackson, MS, I loved growing up in Mississippi and my Southern roots have kept me grounded and inspired throughout my life. After attending JA for elementary and Jackson Prep for high school, I went to the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) where I earned a BFA in Photography and a minor in Art History. After college I moved to California to continue my photographic aspirations and it was in the awe-inspiring city of San Francisco that I met my amazing husband, Matt. We loved living in California but eventually decided to move to Jackson to be closer to family and friends. Fondren has been home to us and our two dogs for the past twelve years.
2. We LOVE your artwork. What is your process called?
My images are created using the photographic process called Mordancage’. This process was invented by the late French photographer, Jean Pierre Sudre, in the 1960s. It is an acid solution consisting of copper chloride, glacial acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide. The process begins by making a photogram using native Mississippi plants and flowers that have been gathered throughout the seasons. Once I have arranged my plant compositon, I process the photogram in my darkroom using standard photographic chemicals. After the print has been fixed and washed, the Mordancage’ process can begin. The acid solution literally “lifts” the silver gelatin from the solid black areas of the photogram and the gelatin can be manipulated in many unique ways. The process leaves behind a striking texture and metallic property unlike any other photographic process.
3. Where did you learn about Mordencage’ and why are you passionate about it?
I was taught the Mordancage’ process by Professor Craig Stevens while taking Advanced Black and White Printmaking at SCAD. Professor Stevens studied and mentored under Jean Pierre Sudre for decades. He would translate for Sudre, who could not speak English, during his workshops in the beautiful town of Aix in the south of France. Sudre passed away in 1997 but I did have the pleasure of going to his home and meeting his wonderful wife, Claudine, while attending the SCAD Italy/France summer quarter abroad.
4. Did we hear correctly that you’re one of very few artists in our area who practices this technique?
Yes, the Mordancage’ process has remained pretty exclusive and is not widely practiced as a photographic process. Only a handful of photographers across the world use and teach this unique printmaking technique.
5. What is the most exciting place this work has taken you?
The most exciting place my work has taken me would have to be the SoHo Photo Gallery in New York City. My work has been chosen for several juried shows of Alternative Photography hosted by that inspiring gallery.
6. Why did you choose SummerHouse as a showplace for your work?
I chose Summerhouse because of many reasons. I am inspired by interior design and I think that as an artist, having your work displayed alongside interior decor is one of the best ways to connect with the customer. Everyone at Summerhouse is so professional and talented and absolutely wonderful to work with! The store and merchandise are just beautiful and their artwork is the perfect accompaniment to their design aesthetic.
7. Where do you draw your inspiration for your work?
I am greatly inspired by nature. I love being outside in the natural world and finding interesting plants and flowers and studying their uniqueness that God created. Also traveling and exploring something new have always brought me much inspiration.
Thank you so much, May!