Remembering Peter: Process and Fond Memories
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Remembering Peter: Process and Fond Memories


Peter Feldstein portrait

Olson-Larsen Galleries has represented Peter for over 30 years. After he passed away in late 2017, we wanted to honor his vibrant life and artistic career with a retrospective exhibition presenting unseen prints from Peter's archive, pieces on loan from private collections, works from our inventory, and remembrances from his friends, colleagues, and former students. In this post, we will share insights into some of the techniques Peter used and developed as well as some memories from a few of his friends.

Above: Cibachrome print ca. 1989, process sculpture, both on loan from Marlene & Gary Olson.
Below: Cibachrome prints ca. 1982 on loan from Farm Bureau Financial Services.

Peter Feldstein was an artist originally from Mt. Vernon, New York. After receiving his M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, he called Oxford, Iowa home. He retired in 2006 from his long-time position of Professor of Art at the University of Iowa where he taught photography and digital imaging. Being a part of the University community gave Peter room for experimentation in his work. The installation images above show a few examples of his work from the 80s and 90s. Cibachrome prints and the later Ilford Ilfochrome print materials, were designed for making prints directly from color transparencies. Unlike traditional color negative/positive printing papers, where the colored dyes comprising the picture were made by color couplers in a color developer, Cibachrome print materials were manufactured with the dyes already incorporated in the printing paper. 

The sculpture pictured above is an example of the objects Peter could construct, paint, and modify for the sole purpose of being photographed. These objects became the subjects of his abstract color photographs as he would arrange and light them in various compositions for the final image. 

Peter Feldstein artwork

Randy Richmond remembering Peter:

"Develop a vocabulary and then build on it."
"I think there should be an electronic device that would shock someone when they activated the shutter. That way nobody would take a picture unless they REALLY wanted to."
"I want to know what this tells me about YOU!"
"There is no good reason for anyone to stand in front of a camera naked."

Peter had an ability to gently, and completely reorder your view of the world. There was no aspect of photography that he wasn't curious about, or wanted to try. He also had an ability to quickly make a style or technique his own. As the non-analogue word of photography spread, he was already figuring out ways to show how it could be used differently. He was obsessive, driven, private, and generous.

I'm still developing my vocabulary..."

A former student of Peter's at the University of Iowa, Randy is a photographer, educator, and has been represented by Olson-Larsen Galleries since 2012.

Peter Feldstein cliche verre
Silver gelatin (black and white darkroom) cliché verre prints ca. 1990, on loan from Farm Bureau Financial Services.

Stephanie Brunia remembering Peter:

"I first met Peter one summer during my undergrad at University of Iowa. He was retired and therefore wasn’t my professor, but he was looking for a studio assistant to help him scan old negatives for the Oxford Project book. For my interview, I showed up to a cavernous brick building on Oxford’s main street and was greeted by an enthusiastic Peter who brought me into the studio for what was to be a charming first meeting. I don’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but I do remember that at the end of our discussion, Peter wanted to show me some YouTube clips of some Britain’s Got Talent contestants. As a tiny 7-year-old sweetly sang 'Over the Rainbow' on the screen, Peter got tears in his eyes and talked about how he got emotional whenever he watched that clip. That was it for me—that moment solidified my love for Peter.

The rest of the summer I came and went from that studio scanning negatives, chatting with Peter and befriending his studio cat, Boo. The drives from Iowa City to Oxford were winding and bucolic—they’re some of the more peaceful moments I can remember from that time in my life. Peter was inherently community minded always chatting with people nearby—there were frequently visitors stopping by the studio for a quick hello.

It was Peter who would check in on me periodically in the years after my summer as his assistant, long after I had moved away from Iowa City. He always had a story to tell and a political opinion to share. When I moved back to Iowa City, I was excited to learn that Peter was renting out the very building that I had worked in all those summers previously. It seemed fitting to set up my home and studio in Oxford. I lived there for a few years and would see Peter and his wife, Josephine, on a regular basis (they lived next door, after all). Both were supportive of my studio practice and I couldn’t believe how lovely the space was that I was able to live/work in. All of that is to say that Peter is greatly missed. His generosity, enthusiasm and his open nature charmed and won over many. I am grateful to have been one of those people."

Peter Feldstein artwork
Archival inkjet prints, 22x22" ca. 2012. Installation image and detail of each print. 

The original cliché verre technique was a method of drawing on a ground-coated or smoked glass and printing the resulting image on a light sensitive paper.  It is a process first practiced by the Barbizon school painters, including Camille Corot, during the early part of the 19th century.  Peter works on glass, film, and translucent paper and has developed techniques for achieving a variety of line, tone, texture, and color, using ink, paint, and a wide assortment of tools for etching, scratching, rubbing, and daubing.  The "positive" is then scanned, often manipulated digitally, and printed on an Epson ink jet printer.

In a series of Peter’sinkjet prints developed between 2010-2015, he layered abstract shapes that appear to be moving and morphing into new configurations. Peter wrote that his images “provide an anchor for reflection upon, and hopefully understanding of, my place in my macro community.”  

Peter Feldstein artwork
6-5-12-1 and 6-6-12-1, Archival inkjet prints, 34x34" ca. 2013

John Engelbrecht remembering Peter:

"I first met Peter as a student hoping to get into grad school at Iowa. I set up a meeting for a studio visit and he welcomed me, though I had no affiliation with the school yet. The studio visit went well, we hit it off and he liked the work. The meeting ended with him saying, good luck, I’m retiring so have no say in who’s going to be accepted this year!

I ended up studying with Jim Snitzer, Margaret Stratton, and John Freyer, but Peter was often around at receptions and at artist talks. (I remember being horrified when, attending an artist talk in the 3rd row, he answered his phone and had a short conversation w/o leaving his seat). He was friends with David Dunlap, as am I, and I hung out with him at Walnut Farms several times. He photographed there during a Paintallica event and captured my portrait as Thee Strawman (the only official portrait of that entity).

The last time I saw him was at the drawing table at David Dunlap’s place. We talked about exhibitions, Iowa City, and growing old. He was always kind to me and interested in my work and the work I was doing at Public Space One."

Watch for our next blog post with remembrances from colleagues and friends who worked closely with Peter in addition to material on his most notable series, The Oxford Project


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