Paradise Wavering 2014 - ongoing
Paradise Wavering is an ongoing project that stems from a deep need to connect with the natural world and my profound concerns for it’s very survival. Paradise is in flux, tenuous, and I feel there is no other issue as urgent and unrelenting than that of our environment changing at a pace we can barely fathom. The vulnerability of our planet’s biodiversity, the fragility, and shrinking of natural habitats, and this desire to express the sublimity and wonder of the organic world informs my work.
The Monograph,Paradise Wavering, is a stream of consciousness that weaves in and out of place and time -- via varying photographic substrates and medias -- it's a drifting non linear narrative that parallels how the mind works. The work explores ephemerality and vulnerability as it pertains to the human experience, the environment, and the photographic medium itself.
The photographs lead through mangroves, tropical biospheres, forests, or midwestern prairies close to my home, placing the viewer into sumptuous experiences of flora and fauna. The images reference and are inspired by the heroic landscapes of 19th century photography, and painting. Like this earlier work I seek the sublime and beauty of the wild, however more often, I turn these expansive spaces into more intimate, sensory, and immersive representations. The work is about photography, an art form designed to forestall loss. It is about looking, slowing down, noticing, and feeling compassion for the subtleties of observation. I create these connections to the organic world by immersing myself into many biologically diverse landscapes, or in the studio by analyzing a sliver of a vintage silver print, a forgotten background of a vernacular snapshot, or simply by observing a light event doing it's dance across my studio wall.
Color is a very important aspect of my working process. I experiment, and work liberally with color, adding layers of tone much like I did in the analog color darkroom or when steeping images into subsequent toner baths. My colors are inspired by early color processes, such as Autochromes, or by the color shifts inherent to various photographic media as they are markers for and trace the passage of time. I love the way that certain substrates like Polaroids from the 1970s, for example, fade to that ochre yellow or green. The color shifts themselves are sublime. Color becomes a tool with which I can inscribe emotion onto media. The patina of time on photographic substrates can literally color our memories and helps me to express the parallels between fugitive image, fugitive nature, and fugitive memory. Photography is the art of the fleeting - an attempt to catch hold of all things ephemeral —light, love, nature, time— however futile this attempt may be, we still try to grab hold of time, but time and memory are fickle.
This quote from George Sand was on my first artist statement and is still relevant to my artistic practice today. “The consciousness of self as animal, vegetable, and mineral and the delight we feel plunging down into that consciousness is by no means degrading-- It is good to know the fundamental life at our roots."
Untitled (expeditions and family pictures) 2006-2014
Untitled (expeditions and family pictures) explore the ephemeral while trying to seek the sublime in the everyday. I am interested in photographing the moments on the periphery of the whirling dervish that is daily family life. Without literally depicting home or family per se, I want to bring to the forefront images of memories or reflections on the passage of time. The expedition photographs are inspired by the heroic landscapes of early travel photography while also reflecting on the genre of vernacular family photography. What do we photograph generation upon generation, documenting family life and travels where photography’s role is to harness and bring home the exotic, flora, fauna, images caught from the window of a moving car, and Kodachrome moments. The images cross boundaries between traditional genres as they can be interiors, landscapes, still lives, and the ever-changing undulating skies that calmly shelter or hauntingly weigh heavy upon us. Whether within domestic space or more recently wanderings of not only place but of mind, these images intertwine in unexpected ways as does memory. My installations also wander along the walls, images merge and collide, leading a circuitous route to an imprecise destination.
My process occurs often in the studio where I re-image experiences by working liberally and intuitively with color, revisiting photographs after a certain amount of time, and letting my emotions inscribe their patina on the image. The resulting photographs are an amalgam of moods, colors, and emotions; images infused with the tones of memory, loss, and steeped in a sort of visceral sublime. After collecting and studying the unique color shifts inherent to photographic materials over time, as well as the first color processes such as Autochromes, I am inspired by these rich unique colors, and their shroud of tone. What do we remember, how do we remember it, and how do photographic substrates literally “color” our memories? These questions, the photographic genre of vernacular family photography, the American Road trip, and the ubiquitous boxes and albums which are the residue of family life become fodder for my photographic explorations.
The cusp between lightness and darkness fascinates me. That in between time, which is neither day nor night, underscores for me the passage of time. Moments of darkness just before nightfall when deep shadows are somewhat illuminated but are steadily being usurped by the dark. This movement mirrors the corners of the mind filled with faint memories. Dusk is ever so fleeting, analogous to the sense of loss we are constantly facing as we feel life racing by, the loss of a moment, a single day, a childhood, a person, or an entire lifetime. There is a certain beauty in this “capture” which is attempted and then there is the subsequent, inevitable loss characteristic to photography itself, making it the perfect tool for probing the fugitive nature of childhood, youth, memory, and the natural world. Nature’s dichotomy of being at once vulnerable and a ferocious unrelenting force is a theme I have explored since I started making photographs. It is again apparent in the expedition images; blue sky thinking but skies are rarely blue, the lull before the storm, the cloud formations that seem newly unfamiliar in their ominous otherworldly twenty-first century forms. Liminal unspoken spaces, peripheral extracts threaded together, and transitory details that the camera seeks to contain, reveal that this process instead underlines the impossibility of photography to really capture anything, nor to stop time.
Photography is the art of the fleeting, an attempt to catch hold of happiness. However futile that attempt may be, we still try to grab hold of time, but time and memory are fickle.
Home (movies) statement 2001-2004
The series Home (movies) takes a similar analytical perspective as previous bodies of work but turns that eye onto photography itself; looking at what and why we photograph, and the transience of the images themselves. The images are single frames extracted from 8 mm film, transferred to video, & captured digitally. Going through generations of reproduction leaves behind a certain patina, a kind of sublime decay; this disintegration of the image and the color shifts of time really interest me formally. Conceptually, I am interested in how these images speak to the nature of photography itself, how we create & recreate images generation after generation; the images could almost be interchangeable, only the characters have changed. They represent the cliché subjects that people often use photography to capture. (Home (movies) Falls 2006) Leisure, travel, the american road trip, photos or film footage shot from the window of the moving car are all topics that the work references. My photographs are almost empty stage sets, uninhabited landscapes, hollow, and almost bleak & barren but ready to be filled with ones own subjective memories or individuals. They are landscapes filtered through memory, steeped in time, & filled with paradox. I see them as at once beautiful but banal, domestic but exotic; the past becomes exotic in itself as we try to bring home these images for savoring. Jacques Lartigues, in the beginning of the 20th century, called photography "the art of the fleeting" an "attempt to catch hold of happiness" however futile that attempt may be, we still try to grab hold of time, but time is fickle.
Historically photography has been seen as a mirror of reality and painting as a depiction. Currently we have come to understand that photography is really constructed fiction. Lartigues said "but when I suffer from not having seen spring in all its depth, then I paint". Re-photographing photographs or images from film is more like painting in its process, it is distilled. Narrative is lost, stories and images collide leaving behind the photographic residue as a completely subjective artifact.
Anonymous (family pictures) 2003 - on going
Working as both excavator and image-maker the photographic medium is both my subject and my substrate. I collect endless albums of vintage prints, slides, negatives, polaroid's, and glass plates of mostly family histories and vernacular imagery from various vintages of photographic practice. I re-photograph the images from these family albums looking at the trace that time has left behind on the photographic matter. Formally, I am interested in the fragility of the matter itself, the color shifts, the kind of sublime decay, and disintegration that occurs over time. Emulsions leave a certain patina, the specific color shifts of various historical photographic processes interest me. The "ruby proofs" for example were made in the 1950's to be purposely unstable. The photographs themselves become relics, evidence, and tangible records of the passing of time. This work explores the parallels between image degradation and the way memory is also filtered and changed over time, fugitive image-fugitive memory.
I am interested in how these images speak to the nature of photography itself, how we create and recreate images generation upon generation; the images could almost be interchangeable, only the characters have changed. They are constructed fictions representing the cliché ubiquitous subjects of vernacular Photography, scenes of daily life, leisure, travel, the American road trip, landscapes, or glimpses from the window of a moving car. The images themselves are distilled from life, narratives are lost, and stories and images collide, leaving behind photographic residue as completely subjective artifacts, sometimes salvaged and often discarded.
Untitled (family pictures), Flooded Albums & Ruby Proofs, 2006- ongoing
Jacques-Henri Lartigue, in the beginning of the 20th century, called photography "the art of the fleeting" an "attempt to catch hold of happiness". However futile that attempt may be, we still try to grab hold of time, but time is fickle.
Combined here are photographs of figures and ground. Uninhabited landscapes & interiors are the ground—the settings. The Untitled (family pictures) series underlines this ephemerality; the image is distilled from life, narrative is lost, stories and images collide, leaving behind the photographic residue as a completely subjective artifact.
The figures are re-photographed images from family albums & ruby proofs (a process used last century to proof images). There are details, and distilled elements with emulsions that leave a certain patina of time & evidence of the transformation of photographic matter.
I am interested in looking critically at photography itself. What do we photograph generation upon generation & why. The transience of photographs, their fragility, the color shifts, the kind of sublime decay, & disintegration that occurs over time fascinates me. I am interested in the parallel between image degradation & the way memory is also filtered & changed over time. What are the traces of experience that can be etched onto film & recovered. Family pictures are the vernacular residue of family life. Reoccurring themes—genres—appear in endless albums—anonymous moments—an immediate “capture” of a moment is attempted & then there is the subsequent & immediate loss characteristic to photography itself. Photography is a perfect tool for probing the fugitive nature of childhood, youth, memory, “truths”, and the land—fugitive image & fugitive memory.
Alden Photographs & How These Images Relate to the Home (movies) 2000-2004
Since 2002 I have been collecting not only my own family albums but the albums & single photographs lost & abandoned to the heaps of vernacular images in flea markets; resuscitating life from this pool of the multitudes of forgotten images. Another child with a watermelon, whether 80 years ago or today, there is a certain sense of immediate “capture” and subsequent loss; characteristic to photography itself and making it such a desirable and enduring medium as well as the perfect tool for probing the fugitive nature of childhood, youth, memory, “truth”, & landscapes
This Alden portfolio marks a certain crossover in my work, I have taken the same analytical perspective used in previous bodies of work and turned that eye onto photography itself, looking at what & why we photograph; and in the case of the Alden and Home Movies pictures the transience of the images themselves.
The color shifts, the kind of sublime decay, & the disintegration of the prints themselves fascinate me; I want to really look at these images, analyze them both in terms of their formal qualities and their conceptual content. Rather than restoring the images I wanted to stop them in their tracks, freeze the moment of their deterioration, and honor the marks that time left on them. Conceptually I am interested in how these images speak about the nature of photography itself, how we create and recreate images obsessively due to their ability to grab hold of time. From generation to generation we seem to be re-making the same images, striving to stop time, only the individual subjects themselves change over the years, the venues & themes seem to re-appear again and again. They are almost like empty stage sets where the actors (or family members) can be interchanged. Particularly in the genre of family or home images I see many recurring themes; travel, heroic vistas, motherhood, flora, fauna, sports, horseback riding, landscapes from the family car as it travels in expedition or documenting the quintessential American Road Trip. Footage is steeped in time, it filters our memory, and molds our perspectives. I am interested in how the stills become a millisecond of a fleeting event, gesture, or glance, and how they depict an intersection between various genres such as portraiture, still life, and landscape. The images are formed through the mediation of time, memory, and the inherent fugitive latent image as it evolves tactically from the passage of time.
The Alden pictures are re-photographed details from a family album dated 1900 with “Kodak” burnished on the pigskin cover. They come from my own family’s homestead in rural Florida. While visiting these images for the first time, they seemed to somehow clarify for me why I was so absorbed with the organic world in my work. Here was a personal history or evidence of my past through family photographs, anonymously taken, and preserved with all their inherent “truths” and fictions. The Alden pictures are documents of documents, and since I believe that all photographs are subjective representations this leads me to be interested in how stories and images collide. What on one level seems one way may indeed mask a completely contrary reality. Thus photographs as these can leave many of the narrative stories up to us.
Do the photographs make us or do we make the photographs? Images become identity; we identify with certain pictures and incorporate them into our very being. This quote from George Sand embodies my creative identity: “The consciousness of self as animal, vegetable, and mineral, and the delight we feel in plunging down into that consciousness, is by no means degrading. It is good to know the fundamental life at our roots”. Photography allows us to create a tangible representation of these feelings of identity and we become an amalgam of moments in time and space.
Feline Fertility, 1998
The Feline Fertility pictures are part of a body of work titled Fecundity. They stem from my work dealing with the localization of emotions in the brain, and the search for the exact locations of “love” in particular. Researchers have been using the PET technology to record areas of the brain that become active upon eliciting certain emotions. After making several different types of images of “love” in the brain, I moved to the heart, and wanted to make pictures of the heart of cats.
Cats interested me as they are such potent & historical symbols of fertility and their bulging bellies and torsos reminded me of my own belly that was swelling with new life at that time. Each cat became a celebration of life, individuality, and beauty of form. I made their colors playful, lively, and worked with color in a much freer way than I had previously. I chose to title them with their actual names plus “love” such as “Amazonlove”. They each have their own unique personality for me and upon exhibiting them they became an almost abstract, colorful dance across the wall.
Alice Hargrave Photographs, archives, 1990's
One can see my photographic work as a sustained inquiry into an intricate personal relationship with nature. The nature that I am looking at is not the pastoral world of the green and the beautiful, it is often below the surface, inside the body, underneath the grass, or in places we cannot see with our eyes alone. This visceral expression not only evokes nature itself but the experience one feels in its midst. Thus, my images represent emotional experience. They are contextualized in a present world of ecological crisis, AIDS, cancer, alienation, and isolation. My work is triggered by this world and is a response to my fears about the fragility of life.
I am fascinated by the capability of new technologies to actually see into the body, recording in images something as abstract as metabolic activity. My work incorporates these tools; Mammography, Positron Emission Tomography (PET scans), Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI scans), and the computer to weave together information that at once celebrates the beauty of the organic as well as questions these processes, and our fragile role in this late 20th century environment. When I look at a turnip or a moth through the eyes of the enlarger (as microscope), I see a flesh that has an invisible pesticide hidden within its structure. When I look at a torso,breast, or the spine for example, I fear for what might be hidden inside. The human body is a microcosm for the macrocosm of the universe. These scans / diagnostic tests are often considered invasive, disturbing, and have negative connotations, often because of the diseases that are usually being diagnosed, or due to the otherworldly nature of the machinery itself. However, they also save lives. This dichotomy interests me.
The brain interests me in particular, as it still remains quite a mystery and is the essence of life itself; the source of memory, creativity, intellect, & emotion. The brain scans remind me of scrolls, denoting a changing form over time, almost like a late 20th century version of Muybridge’s motion studies, however a method of stopping metabolic action in the mind. Muybridge was a conceptual thinker his ideas are relevant to contemporary artists grappling with ways that human perception is continually expanding. Formally I am interested in the beauty & rhythm of the grid. I like how the repetition of forms seem to suggest sound, a sort of experiential buzz or calming hum. I look at textiles such as African commemorative cloths where symbols of the body are woven into patterns while stories are told. The tradition of sewing, quilting, piecing together histories in cloth influences my work. Thus, I use the computer to weave together the pieces, the fragments of my investigations. Trying to create a kind of harmony. In “Radioactive Mother”, for example, several PET scans from over a period of time are woven together, at distance it looks like cloth but at a closer look one can discern the form of the body.
Recently my work is dealing with the location of particular emotions in the brain such as hope, fear, anger & love. I am in search of the location of love in the brain. There has been much research done using the PET scanner and placing people in front of very precise imagery to trigger a response. Depending on what emotion is provoked a different area of the brain becomes active. I want to make pictures of these emotions, to stop the fleeting moment of a thought as it travels through the mind...a picture of Love in motion....like a Muybridge inside out.
What are the ramifications of this technology ? Eventually if we can identify the source of emotions, we will learn how to alter them , control them , mind control at its’ most precise. What could occur if there was no fear in the world ? How could we be taken advantage of ? What if there were excessive amounts of hope...? Or no such thing as dislike or hate ? Finding these emotions, the potential for manipulation, & / or the virtual reading of the mind by visualizing a thought circulate in the brain could certainly be very dangerous & the image of it a sort of dangerous beauty.
The act of observation / contemplation, noticing every detail and every moment has become very important in my art making process. Historical influences include early photographic practice, early abstraction, and the relationship of the sublime in 19th century painting to photography. I have been influenced by the luminous colors of early 20th century autochromes while working with current digital technology.
This quote from George Sand embodies my creative identity: “The consciousness of self as animal, vegetable, and mineral, and the delight we feel in plunging down into that consciousness, is by no means degrading. It is good to know the fundamental life at our roots...”