I/Eye: On Photography

A short video about the *Caprichos* project

Posted in Los Caprichos, platinum palladium by Sheila Newbery on January 24, 2018

I’ve posted a short video about the Caprichos project (below).  In it, I explain a little about the platinum palladium process and the genesis of the series — and what in fact a capricho is. You can also read a short project statement here.


From “Los Caprichos”: Oculta las costuras

Posted in Los Caprichos, platinum palladium, Uncategorized by Sheila Newbery on September 22, 2017
From the series *Los caprichos: after Goya*: "Oculta las costuras" (She hides the seams.)

From the series Los Caprichos: after Goya: “Oculta las costuras” (She hides the seams.) The Caprichos are a series of 80 platinum palladium prints made from photos of moving footage shot from a computer screen. The prints are inspired by Goya’s album of the same name, published in 1799.


Even in this headless state, this “she” is already ready: she’s the embodiment of modern advances in “plastic surgery”.  The position of her feet and legs, though, connect her to the past and to Goya’s imagery of women.

Eleanor Sayre, the Goya scholar, left us a clear picture of the iconography of women in Los Caprichos (of 1799): you could tell what a woman was by the position of the feet, legs and hips (though a witless fop might be duped  irrespective of the use of a powerful monocle, such as that employed in plate 7, Ni asi la distingue).  A wide stance, with toes turned out, was indicative to the reader — and there were many women with turned-out toes in the original series. Why is that?

Sayre speculated that it had to do with with the scourge of  venereal disease in the urban centers of 18th-century Spain, a result of the deregulation of prostitution under Phillip IV in 1623, when women were forced out onto the street to ply their trade without the benefit of reliable shelter or medical attention. By the time of Goya’s Caprichos, published at the very end of the eighteenth century, it’s easy to see why people would think it was the women who were to blame. The sex dolls in this Capricho are at any rate immune…






*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




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.

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.

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: Buen viaje!

Posted in Los Caprichos by Sheila Newbery on March 23, 2014
From *Los Caprichos: after Goya*, “Buen viaje!”, platinum palladium print, 2013, by Sheila Newbery

From *Los Caprichos: after Goya*, “Buen viaje!”, platinum palladium print, 2013, by Sheila Newbery

The Caprichos project has been an abiding interest, and recently I started exploring exhibition possibilities — for a collection of, say, 20 prints. This has involved looking into grants, competitions and the like, and as anyone who’s ever done this sort of thing knows, you can spend a lot of money in pursuit of an oasis of opportunity. So you  have to be choosy.  I did see something that caught my eye not long ago, and it meant I had to sum up the project in a few paragraphs — the dread artist’s statement. Here’s what I wrote:

Los Caprichos: after Goya is an artist’s book of 80 platinum-palladium prints, based loosely on Francisco de Goya y Lucientes’ album of the same name from 1799.

I’ve been intrigued by the harrowing eccentricity of Goya’s aquatints since my student days, and in 2011, began to explore using their satirical impetus as a springboard into a photographic project. I was interested in how images from familiar sources could acquire an unexpected, dream-like potency when transformed and re-imagined in a new context, and the idea of composing an extended sequence — one, moreover, with a textual element — was strongly appealing.

My fascination with Goya’s work had to do with the way his cast of characters seem beset by the chaotic energies of a parallel nightmare world. The boundary between the sphere in which people conduct business as usual and the threatening nightmarish one is never terribly clear in the Caprichos; indeed, the implication seems to be that we, the viewer, are situated in both.

To imagine the ordinary as a version of nightmare (and vice versa) became a central concern in the photographs. My subject matter is varied, like Goya’s, and is rooted ostensibly in the social realm, drawn from the ballooning, online repositories of digital video. I photograph stills from moving footage on a computer screen, shooting with a deliberately slow shutter speed. This way I can efface details and trigger tonal distortions, and so distill visual ideas into their graphic essentials. Though the resulting images are distinctly contemporary,  I suspect the dreamer in Goya’s best-known print,  “El sueño de la razón produce monstruos”, would recognize their unsettling phantasmagoria.

Like aquatint, platinum printing — my medium of choice — can convey the velvety depths of an engulfing darkness. I use it because I wanted to let the nocturnal desolation that seemed to lie at the heart of Goya’s prints come flooding into my prints as well.  Platinum has the advantage that it allows me to work directly on paper — that is, without any resin or gelatin substrate, which tends to smooth out appearances.

Goya’s voice in the Caprichos is unmistakable: by turns cryptic, mordant, and darkly funny. He included captions, engraved directly onto the plates, which were printed as part of the image — a device  adopted in making my photographic negatives. In some instances, I’ve preserved his captions verbatim; in others, I’ve written new ones. The legends, and the language, are, in effect, a mask: a way to speak in a transformed voice, one that’s not merely my own.

Beso inesperado

Posted in Los Caprichos by Sheila Newbery on March 3, 2014
"Beso inesperado" from *Los Caprichos: after Goya* (platinum palladium prints)

“Beso inesperado” from *Los Caprichos: after Goya* (platinum palladium prints)

I’m back to the Caprichos  (based loosely on Goya’s album of the same name), after taking some time off to do a solo show (Ohio Woods) in San Francisco last fall. The website has been updated: there’s been a lot of editing going on behind the scenes and — slowly — I’ve been adding legends (captions) to the images. For those who don’t know  Goya’s work  (of 1799), you can see the full set of 80 prints online here. The prints were an experimental series of aquatint etchings that ranged in tone from satiric to grotesque, and which cast a jaundiced eye on late eighteenth-century Madrid.  Goya’s paintings and prints (including work from other series like Los Desastres de la Guerra)  have inspired artists as varied as Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, the Chapman brothers, Enrique Chagoya, and William Kentridge.The legend above translates as  “unexpected kiss”.

Los Caprichos: Porque rompió las reglas.

Posted in Los Caprichos by Sheila Newbery on February 27, 2013

Porque rompió las reglasI’m now working with lettering directly on the prints… Here’s an updated version of “Porque rompió las reglas (Because he broke the rules)” from Los Caprichos: platinum palladium prints inspired by Goya’s 18th-century satirical masterpiece.

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