I/Eye: On Photography

*Los Caprichos* in Oakland: creating a pop-up exhibition

Posted in exhibitions, Los Caprichos, platinum palladium by Sheila Newbery on August 17, 2017

Dawn McGuire (right) and I during a Q&A. (Photo: Hanneke van Proosdij.)

Sometimes you have to get creative when it comes to organizing a show. Poet Dawn McGuire and I decided to put together a “pop-up” show in the East Bay a couple of months ago. Our idea was to have a viewing of 30 palladium prints from my book project Los Caprichos, followed by a reading from Dawn’s new collection American Dream with Exit Wound. We were both drawn to an event that would combine literary and visual arts, and thought our work dovetailed well for this purpose. The whole thing would last only a few hours and would be packed up and put away at the end of the show. The question was where to do it.

I had a number of ideas about location, and felt optimistic at first about being able to find a place even though the Bay Area is notoriously short on supply of cheap exhibition space. But when none of my ideas panned out, we were back to square one. Then Dawn approached the owner of a body shop in Oakland. She (the owner) was game! And when I saw her space, my jaw dropped.  It was gorgeous.

Of course our pop-up audience thought we’d somehow managed to wrangle a commercial gallery (the body shop was better looking than many galleries I’ve seen). When I told visitors that we were in a body shop, they were dumbfounded: “You mean they really fix cars here?” Yep. They do.

It was a great place to mount a show. The strategy was to keep it simple:  we arranged the tables in a basic formation and “installed” the prints on upraised pieces of chipboard, covered by a pearl gray printmaking stock (Stonehenge paper). The tilt was achieved by placing 2” diameter styrofoam balls under the upper corners of the chipboard. The pearl gray stock was laid flat on the board, and the prints were placed on top of that. The prints were “anchored” with gravity (and inertia), though we’d brought magnets in case a firmer attachment was needed. Viewers could wander freely among the tables.

Here’s a photo taken as we were setting up. That’s Dawn at the far right looking at the prints. The nice thing about the space is that it’s open to the street, so people could just wander in off the sidewalk to take a look.

Artist Ana Quintanilla helped with the installation and kicked off the show by reading a prose-poem about the Caprichos, written by her father, the artist and critic Raúl Quintanilla.

You can read  a description of the Caprichos project here.

*Los Caprichos* pop-up show

Here’s what our pop-up installation looked like.


“In the eye of things”: popup show & reading with poet Dawn McGuire

Posted in Los Caprichos, News by Sheila Newbery on August 3, 2017


Uptown Body & Fender

401 26th Street, Oakland, CA
Saturday, August 12, 2017, 3–5 pm


a pop-up print show & poetry reading


Dawn McGuire (poems)  ::  Sheila Newbery (photographs)

Dawn McGuire’s book American Dream with Exit Wound has just been released
by IFSF Publishing, San Francisco, and is available from Small Press Distribution
in Berkeley (www.spdbooks.org).

Sheila Newbery’s Los Caprichos is a collection of 80 palladium prints inspired
by Francisco Goya’s well known album of satirical aquatint etchings, published
in 1799.

This event is made possible by the generosity of Giovanna Tanzillo,
owner of Uptown Body & Fender. It is wheelchair accessible.

contact: sheila [AT] sheilanewbery [DOT] com




Los Caprichos: Mucho hay que chupar

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on July 23, 2017



“Mucho hay que chupar” (There is much to suck), palladium print on Arches Platine paper, 2017.

An image from the series Los Caprichos: after Goya, a book project inspired by the satirical 18th-century album of the same name.

Caprichos means literally: whims. Images from this series are photographed from video source and printed using the platinum-palladium method. In keeping with the original’s mordant titles, I’ve given each image a caption — in Spanish.

Though this one is a direct quote from one of Goya’s captions, the image takes the viewer to a context very different from its eighteenth-century counterpart. The artist Enrique Chagoya also adapted the Caprichos: his approach was to copy Goya’s imagery making strategic alterations. In his version of the print that bears this caption, he makes the artist’s theme more explicit. You can see his print in the collection of MOMA.

From “Los Caprichos: after Goya”: O te hundes o sales a flote (“Sink or swim”)

Posted in Los Caprichos, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on June 3, 2017
"O te hundes o sales a flote" ("Sink or swim"), from "Los Caprichos: after Goya"

“O te hundes o sales a flote” (“Sink or swim”), from the series of platinum palladium prints Los Caprichos: after Goya.


In late 2017, my first complete set of Caprichos will become part of the collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. This means they will live under the same roof as a set of Goya’s eighteenth-century originals. This would have seemed like a guarantee of permanence (and a flattering proximity) even a decade ago. But libraries are fragile things; they burn, they’re looted, they’re lost in political chaos.

Today is the day after  President Trump announced the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, which many governments labored to construct under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 

An analysis of the political and legal repercussions for His Highness (and us) of His Highness’ Colossal Climate Tantrum can be read at the LawFare blog, in a post by David Wirth. Take what heart from it you can.

Homage to Diebenkorn

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 23, 2015
Homage to Diebenkorn. 2015

Homage to Diebenkorn. 2015

Brad Boca at Candela Fine Art has been doing beautiful drum scans of the still life work I shot during the summer months when it’s too hot to print (with the temperatures soaring into the mid-nineties in the platinum palladium room). Here’s a sample. I work on a combination of instant film and color transparency. The instant film is for proofing the composition and lighting. The color transparency is for the “final” image and is the medium that gets drum-scanned.

Tagged with:

Aprenda a tragar (“Learn to swallow” from Los Caprichos)

Posted in Los Caprichos by Sheila Newbery on October 1, 2014
"Learn to swallow" (from *Los Caprichos*, platinum palladium print, 2014) by Sheila Newbery

“Learn to swallow” (from *Los Caprichos*, platinum palladium print, 2014) by Sheila Newbery

Platinum-palladium prints from Los Caprichos: after Goya, an artist’s book inspired by an eighteenth-century masterpiece of the same name: Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes’ album of eighty satirical aquatints, published in 1799.

Los Caprichos means literally: whims. The images are photographed from video source and printed in platinum-palladium. In keeping with the original’s mordant and pun-laden commentary, each of the images is printed with a caption — in Spanish.

Green beret

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 15, 2014
2014 © Sheila Newbery

2014 © Sheila Newbery

Tagged with:

Studio work

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 13, 2014
Still life on instant film, 2014

Still life on instant film, 2014

Fuji’s instant film is gorgeous; I’ve shot with it often enough before, but never to do still life. The trick to getting consistent results on instant film is to swab the polaroid back rollers with alcohol before loading each new pack. (The parcheesi men here were stowaways in a vase I found at Urban Ore, Berkeley’s greatest recycle and reuse store—aka junk shop.)


Los Caprichos: Tantos adeptos

Posted in Los Caprichos, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on July 28, 2014
"Tantos adeptos", from *Los Caprichos: after Goya* (platinum palladium, 2014)

“Tantos adeptos”, from *Los Caprichos: after Goya* (platinum palladium, 2014)

New work for Los Caprichos: after Goya: the caption can be translated as “so many followers”. The original Caprichos contain a number of images that show dubious authority figures and their fulsome adherents, either emphasizing the blind slavishness of the latter or the fatuous pretensions of the former:

Here I give you a contemporary riff on that theme.

Los Caprichos: Salvese quien pueda

Posted in Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on July 19, 2014
Salvese quien pueda from "Los Caprichos: after Goya" (2014)

Salvese quien pueda from “Los Caprichos: after Goya” (2014)


The first post in a long while: I’ve been working intensively on the Caprichos. The lettering has been the hardest part: my aim has always been a simulacrum of the 18th-century round hand script used by the master calligrapher(s) who inscribed Goya’s legends. (For a sample of the elegant fluidity of the original, click here.) When I first encountered Goya’s plates years ago, I naively assumed that he’d written the legends himself, on each of the images. Subsequently, I realized that would have been impossible: he produced thousands of individual Caprichos during the brief period of their production, and hand-lettering them all would have been staggeringly difficult for all the reasons I’ve already encountered: you simply can’t afford to make mistakes! Last year, I had the chance to inspect one of the British Museum’s bound presentation albums, prepared by Goya for a patron/friend. With the chance to hold it in my hands and eyeball it in a raking light, I could see clearly that the lettering was part of the plate, something Robert Hughes also notes in his study Goya (New York: Knopf, 2003), but which I’d somehow overlooked in my reading. So that explained a few things—yet knowing this didn’t diminish my admiration for the skill of the calligrapher; in fact, it increased it, because I can’t imagine how it was done (drypoint directly on the plates?).

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing my legends out by hand (this is the laborious, somewhat nerve-wracking part) and then scanning them so they can become part of the negative, which is ultimately printed in platinum-palladium. The one you see above is a recent one. The translation in  English would be “every man for himself”.

Note: in “Goya’s Caprichos” (Print Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2, June 1993, 187–189), Janis Tomlinson questions Juliet Wilson-Bareau’s position that Goya was responsible for making the captions to the Caprichos.  The fact is that the orthography is varied—and this has always made me wonder about the calligraphic aspect of  production.  Tomlinson also emphasises how little we know about the origins of the project: “Despite the seeming familiarity of Los Caprichos, our knowledge about the series if very limited. […] [W]e in fact know very little about the artist’s motives or intended audience.” What we do know is that it was the first of Goya’s works to be offered for sale to the general public, and that it was a financial disaster.