“In 1976, when I was 24 years old, I moved from Columbus, Ohio, to New York City to become an artist. At that time I was making abstract paintings influenced by Mondrian, Malevich, Rothko, and Tantric Art, all of which I had only seen reproduced in books. I had read that Mondrian was involved with Theosophy and I got a hold of the book “Thought Forms” by Theosophists Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater. Having been a good hippie, it was in this intersection of reductive abstraction and spiritual quest that I found subject matter to explore.
“In New York I visited museums and galleries, and for the first time I got to see great art in person. This was thrilling, but also overwhelming. Trying to paint in New York proved to be difficult for me because my mind was filled with other artist’s imagery. Around this time I bought a Polaroid SX70 and started experimenting freely making abstract photographs. I played around using colored lights and reflections off plastic to make instant painterly effects in its small square format. In the magical chance qualities capable with the SX70, I found the open space to create my art.
“In late 1977, I saw an ad in the back of the Village Voice for a workshop in Kirlian photography. In 1939, the Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian accidentally discovered the technique of using high voltage to create a corona discharge to expose film. This technique, also called electrophotography, was the subject of research in parapsychology and alternative medicine. It was believed that the photographs captured a living form’s aura and was thought to be a visual measurement of the energy fields around living things. At the workshop, I learned the basics of Kirlian photography and how to fabricate a device to make such images.”
Kerry Schuss, 2019
Excerpt from Schuss’ essay in Electrograms 1978 – 2020