Judith McMillan (Born 1945) has enjoyed photographing research collections of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History for many years. Over the past few years her work at the museum has taken an exciting and new dimension: She has begun using an X-Ray machine as her camera (the machine is in the department of Physical Anthropology). In making these images she’s making what amounts to an X-Ray photogram. Judith places the material directly on the loaded packet of X-Ray film and then she makes the exposure. She uses the X-Ray machine to photograph insect material and the internal structures of plant in order to capture images that reveal the beauty of natural forms usually invisible to the eye. In her photographs, what’s familiar, common and predictable is transformed into a world of newly discovered pleasures. In a wonderful marriage of art and science, an unseen microcosm emerges from within the complexity of botanical forms. Judith’s images are beautiful, eerie and ephemeral.
The ferns, locust seeds, orchids, water lilies, poppies, and gladioli that become the focus of her work take on a life that’s strangely translucent, opening the viewer’s mind to an alternate view of reality. Using a chemical process, she lightly tones the prints she has created from the X-ray negatives producing a mysterious shift between cold and warm tones and creating a wonderful dimensionality in the overlapping layers. Her photographs encompass the entire metamorphosis from life to death. She uses specimens collected throughout the seasons, and records the transition from bud to blossom and from blossom to seed. Judith studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art, Case-Western Reserve University, and at Smith College.