Coney Island
antique orange crate cover

Santa Monica Beach Rings
antique orange crate cover.

Eiffel Tower
antique barrel cover

Bike Path Venice
reclaimed wood panel.

reclaimed wood panel leather twine.

Sidewalk Cafe
reclaimed wood panel

Thornton Alley
reclaimed wood panel

Venice Canal
reclaimed wood panel

Windward Plaza
reclaimed wood panel


Portfolio: Helen K. Garber

by Kara Fox

Helen K. Garber is a challenge to write about. She is multi-faceted and everything she creates is amazing. This portfolio highlights her most recent work 'Encaustic Noir.'

I love black & white photography, and it is this love that brought Helen K. Garber into my life.  Many years go, Cheryl Drasin, an extraordinary art consultant, invited me to visit Helen's studio, suggesting her 'noir' work was significant and important for me to know about. I have never forgotten her striking images of Venice at night.

       Recently, sitting in Helen's phenomenal studio on the beach in Venice, California, I was overwhelmed by the images lining the walls, and the sweet scent of beeswax filling the air. As we spoke, I reflected on how we were destined to know each other. We discovered our relationship had begun many years before when I had visited her husband, Dr. Stuart Garber for a crainiopathy often does one learn that the wife of your doctor is a photographer you have admired for years? Recently, Cheryl suggested I see Helen's latest work, Encaustic Noir, a series of mixed-media work incorporating antique wood from demolished buildings, pages from her library of gothic paperbacks, archival prints from her no longer needed portfolio books and twine encased in beeswax.

          Helen has a personal grace that is evidenced as she defines her work.  She discusses her interest in the viewers' experience of what they are seeing above what she thinks about her creations. She has a strong sense of social commitment and greater purpose. She defines her images as community building collaborations. She thinks of creativity as integrative, as art to build community, witnessed by her own unique mixed media assemblage.

As a Junior High School student, Helen entered a science contest. This was to be a visual experiment involving three variations of an onion growing. She was to photograph this growth once a week. Her father was interested in photography, from the camera to his dark room. He was using a Voight 2 1/4 camera. With her natural skill and her father's support, Helen was one of the winners of the contest. She felt an immediate connection to photography.

Her father taught her to use an Argost 3 from the 1930's. It had no light meter - everything was manual – pure science and physics. You had to understand light. He also gave her a Minolta 101. In college she took a lot of snapshots of the Hudson Valley, New York, where she grew up. Years later she was in a terrible car accident, the result of which was severe damage to her neck; she could no longer look down and use a camera for years.

As there is often good that comes from bad, she had to find a new way to create images, and as you can see, she has captured an uniqueness with her encaustic noir images.

In Helen's words: "Before Ipads, Iphones and Websites, there were portfolio books.  We printed, edited, bound and then carried or FED-EX’ed our brand, our identity, and our style of work to potential clients.

          “I have always prided myself on staying modern, ahead of the technical curve. Spending months on a 40-foot long technical nightmare for the 2006 Venice Biennale of Architecture started me thinking about using my arms beyond my wrists again, as well as working with texture and dimension. I felt that I had mastered the 2-D image and that it was time to move on to something new.

          “An exhibit that I saw at the Samuel Dorsky Museum in 2005 sparked my interest in incorporating encaustic (beeswax) into my work. Neil Trager, the director, gave me a tour of the museum when we first met to discuss my future one-person show.  I took three workshops to learn how to work in this new (for me) ancient medium.  I started in spring, 2007, not long after my 40’ long technical nightmare was exhibited at the front entrance of Photo LA.

           “The image was so perfect that it appeared cold and lifeless – as any art form that doesn’t include the human touch usually feels. Tagging the piece soon after (along with a dozen infamous graffiti writers) allowed me to bring life back into the work.  Making my statement that I had had enough of these intensive digital creations.

          “Renew, re-use, assemblages, collage, unique objects of art are the words that describe the finished pieces.

“Life kept getting in the way for me to fully engage with the medium, but the wax still called to me.  Strange wonderful moments happen when I focus on the work and it seems to open a portal, a channel, to another world or dimension. It all came together in the past two years and the wax and I have bonded into a strong, spiritual partnership.”


          As I looked at Helen's ripped hand-made paper, pages from books wrapped in twine, sometimes metallic if the image calls for something more elegant, I can sense that these are more than images; she has, indeed, created a new soul.

Helen K. Garber's works are in the permanent collections of The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of the City of New York, George Eastman House, The International Museum of Film and Photography, Rochester, New York and The Portland Art Museum in Oregon.

You can enjoy Helen's Vintage Noir Works in California at Noirfest, Santa Monica, from January 14 - March 28, 2012.

Helen's website is

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