Joe Nalven: World Identity Cards

  • ©2007, Joe Nalven

  • ©2007, Joe Nalven



    World Identity Cards


Creation Year:



    Digital composition, montage, printed on archival paper and face-mounted on plexiglass


    8 inches x 10 inches x 1/8 inch


Artist Statement:

    Migration has always been part of the human condition. With the advent of written language, we could be identified: identity cards or passports. The next step to evolving a transnational identity, while acknowledging the need for public recognition of the individual as opposed to anonymity, may be a world identity card. These exemplars are drawn from my ethnographic research, photographic explorations, and mixed-media experimentation, and then recomposited as a digital composition. One might assume that the human condition presents a consistent framework for understanding one another. Yet, at the same time, we recognize the influence of different cultures, family and peers, social class, access to media, and a host of particularities. Into this mix of the common and the particular comes the artist with a question: how to make sense of this “blooming, buzzing confusion.” I seek to extract the quirkiness of this human condition. At the photographic level, I am mindful that there are millions of pictures snapped every day, so what makes one particular picture different beyond the fact of my taking it? Digital photography permits realtime monitoring of the flow of events, people, and things – an opportunity to capture the moment more readily with the dialogue between photographer and captured images, an ability to edit within the camera and, time and opportunity permitting, to retake the picture. There is much quirkiness to capture, even as a photorealistic image. Then there is the second adventure of many digital artists, who are perfecting their style of commenting on those seemingly “real” photographs and transforming them into a “more real” sense of what the artist saw in that moment. This two-fold adventure (and at times a three-fold adventure, when the artist adds new substrates) is my pathway into image intensification. The end goal of this intensification is to portray the ineffable. One might liken this seeking to the “that thou art” (the Ultimate Reality in Hindu tradition). The image speaks for itself and for me. The translation into text is but a shadow of that vision.

    So look, see, and enjoy.

Technical Information:

    I frequently work in multiple processes, including photographic capture of textures and typical subject matter with a photographic attentiveness. In this series of images, I imported a variety of photographic imagery (some of which were taken in the 1970s in Cali, Colombia during my research, while others are more current photographs) and a Mercatur map image, and recomposited them in Photoshop. An extensive array of images resulted from image intensification with filters, digital painting, blending layer modes, and color manipulation. Recompositing also included cut-and-paste techniques that I used as a collage artist when working in collage/ montage modes. More recently, I have been experimenting with presentation of the final image, whether facemounted on plexiglass (as here) or laminated onto brushed aluminum. One of the layers in these pieces was a Jackson Pollock-style painting created by using a controlled-splashing technique of patinas on brushed aluminum and baked in the sun. The resulting images (on the metal surfaces) were then photographed and montaged into the evolving World Identity Cards.

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