Between the nerves and the adrenaline rush, upon acceptance into the MFA program, there was the moment when I saw the list of my incoming cohorts. As I glanced over it, one name caught my eye – Langley Anderson – and what immediately came to mind were images of intense color, chrome and details of vintage cars. This is what I remember about the first time I saw Langley Anderson’s photographs hanging at the Green Heron Art Gallery in Radford, Virginia, four or five years ago.
It was a huge relief to realize I knew someone in the program I had met outside the college. For this first year, our courses (a laughable concept for me with my one class a semester) followed different tracks, but we enjoy those student hallway conversations, gallery openings and enjoyed a workshop together.
And then there is her latest work. It still features those brilliant colors inherent in her older work, but she’s turned all sciencey – creating photographs using a scanning electron microscope. Included in two shows at the university, she won an award for it at the Juried Student Show. The other was the MFA photo alumni and current student show, “Then and Now,” which included her photographs. During the recent opening of the university’s new Center for the Sciences, they displayed several of her pieces.
With all this, Langley seems like the perfect person to start what I hope will become a regular feature on the blog – mini-interviews with artists I admire. So, I sent her five questions, asked for examples of her work, and a photo of her in her artistic environment. She graciously accepted.
The Interview with Langley Anderson
1. What inspired you to get an MFA?
A. Not sure of what one thing inspired me to get my MFA. I have always been surrounded by art and I identify myself as an artist. I have created my own work and taught art for a while, but I have always wanted to go a little deeper into it, if that makes sense! My parents first inspired me as I grew up coloring on the floor of a gallery in the French Quarter that my mom helped run. Then I just got busy with life, jobs, etc, and my pursuance of an MFA just got pushed back. When my daughter started school, I thought again about careers and my husband encouraged me that this might be the best time to begin an MFA program.
2. How would you describe your artwork?
A. My artwork is pretty, yes that sounds cliché, but I like to think that I make stuff that is aesthetically pleasing. Now that being said, most of my current work is of creatures like mosquitoes, wasps, and other insects. Many people would think that these beasts are quite ugly, but I attempt to portray them differently. Some of my other photography may be more than good-looking: my photo documentary works can make a statement about poverty, or they border on nostalgia and sentimental themes. I enjoy color, strong lines, far-off places, and nature, so much of this is reflected in my work.
3. What inspired you to work with microscopes and photography?
A. I have worked with photography since I was a child, and was fascinated by the tiny world that I saw through my microscope when I was young, but I had not thought to put the two together. I have always loved science, but have no formal background or training in it since the path I took was in the arts. When my husband, who is a scientist studying mosquitoes, showed me a beautiful image that a student had created of one of these pesky critters, I was amazed! The detail and tones reminded me of a print by M.C.Escher. I decided that I could finally put art and science together myself by creating images with a scanning electron microscope.
4. What is the most harrowing moment with going back to school?
A. Not sure what the most harrowing moment of going back to school was. Maybe all of it! It has been very exciting and invigorating, but at the same time quite draining and exhausting. I faced a large learning curve with technology since email was just barely peaking its head out when I was last in school. Time-management is another big issue, learning to juggle school, family, and work. The paper writing, research, and technology have all thrown me for multiple loops, but I like to think that I am slowly and steadily figuring it out!
5. What is an image or series you are most proud of that you created and why?
A. At the moment, I quite proud of my scanning electron microscopy work, since I feel that it is not only new for me, but also still somewhat unique, not a lot of people are doing it. It takes quite a technical touch that I have not quite mastered but I am getting pretty good at. However, this work is not as emotional as my street photography pieces and I miss that a little. Which leads me to choose “French Quarter,” which is totally different from my current work, as my “all-time” favorite piece. It is a silver gelatin print that I made when I was only in high school. It just has such a strong Cartier-Bresson quality to it, it is so old-fashioned for my time and I love that about it! Yet, I am still very enthusiastic to watch how my new, boldly colored scientific photography evolves as I continue to work toward my MFA.
© 2016 Langley Anderson
To learn more about Langley’s images visit: