Sunburned, GSP #166, Mohave/Winter Solstice

Chris McCaw (American, born 1971)

Gelatin silver prints
34.7 x 26.6 cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/2 in.), each print Frame: 46.4 × 122.6 cm (18 1/4 × 48 1/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2008
Accession Number:
  • Description

    In 2003 McCaw, a photographer based in San Francisco, began taking pictures of the sun. Using large-format cameras that he builds himself, McCaw works outdoors, usually in the desert or by the sea. Instead of film, he places photographic paper in the camera so that each picture he creates is a unique paper negative. His exposures often last four hours or more. McCaw calls these works "Sunburns" because the rays of the sun, magnified by the camera's lens, actually scorch the paper negative, sometimes burning all the way through the paper base. The intensity of the light also causes solarization, reversing the tonal values so that the negative print appears as a positive image.
    This elegant piece consists of four sequential exposures tracing the arc of the sun over the Mojave Desert during the winter solstice-the shortest day of the year, when the angle of the sun is at its lowest. In its stunning simplicity, the work embodies photography at its most elemental-as a direct trace of the light and heat of the sun.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on verso, BL to BR:
    .386: "(Mojave/Winter Solstice) 1/4 (c) 2007 Chris McCaw"
    .387: "(Mojave/Winter Solstice) 2/4 (c) 2007 Chris McCaw"
    .388: "(Mojave/Winter Solstice) 3/4 (c) 2007 Chris McCaw"
    .389: "Sunburned GSP #166 (Mojave/Winter Solstice), 2007 4/4"

  • Provenance

    The artist; [Peer Gallery, New York]

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History