I. P A S S A G E
Recently, on the floor in the corner of my father's wood working shop lay two small carefully crafted boxes covered with sawdust, one for my mother's remains and one that will hold his. The thought of my father carefully hand carving the dovetails and lovingly sanding, with the finest grit of paper, this small final resting place has taken time to accept. My father conveyed to me how important it was to him that the boxes not be perfect, reflecting the imperfections in his own life. He then offered to make a box for my ashes out of the wood of my preference. This open discussion and my trepidation of the unknown is where my work takes its roots. Honoring life and the death that follows it.
Passage is a body of work that explores the transformations we all make: from birth, through life, death, and beyond. My work examines this ongoing metamorphosis of the physical as well as spiritual. Ruth Bernard said that if you are not willing to see more than is visible, you won't see anything. The oval I use is a direct connection to the portraits of the 1800s. Old photographs, seen as antiquated, weren't taken that long ago. As we rush to be new, we can't avoid that we will all soon be part of the past. I used 5” x 7” cameras for this series of work. I like the imperfections of old lenses.
We have all felt the sorrow of loss or the anticipation of it. For many years my practice of picture making was an attempt to find solace in my fear of death and its inevitability. I have been looking for answers to questions of faith and acceptance of this great master plan, illuminating something inside of me that I can feel but can’t see.
The symbols, metaphorical moths and cocoons, depict the passage we make as we grow older. Spiritual symbols signify our need for answers to life's biggest questions. Within the humid atmosphere of these landscapes, nature personifies our own seasons of life. My images are intended to work together like lines in a poem, each photograph providing a richer meaning to the next. For we are all part of this great journey, whirling through time.
“The places we have known do not belong only to the world of space on which we map them for our convenience. None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; The memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues, are as fugitive, alas, as the years."
– Pascal, French mathematician, philosopher and physicist 1623-1662. He died 300 years before I was born.
II. G R O U N D E D
For over ten years, I have been photographing trees, chronicling the roots I have forged within the landscape I call home. I view these landscapes as a reflection of ourselves, personifying human suffering, the passing of time, aging, and mirroring life. Southern landscapes are inherently scarred and stained by its oppressive past. It is difficult to reflect on southern land without this shadow of sadness from our history, and I can’t escape that my roots are dusted with these injustices. This work is driven by a longing to connect with this land and for a miraculous healing of the rich dark soil from the past.
Growing up I spent many afternoons cradled in the limbs of trees, through languid summers, shaded from the sticky Carolina heat. When I began drawing, at a young age, trees were my favorite models. I loved to imitate them on paper using charcoal or pencil, smudging and stretching the expressive branches across the page, each a portrait of a strong living thing that doesn’t speak but is a quiet witness to the world changing around us.
Their presence and beauty have been shown to reduce violence in neighborhoods in comparison to neighborhoods that are without trees. The shade from their leaves and branches cut down on the energy needed to cool buildings and homes in the summer. Their roots help filter the earth’s water. Their trunk, branches and leaves filter the air around us creating cleaner air. Trees take in carbon dioxide, convert it to food, and release the oxygen for us all to breathe. “In one year, a mature acre of trees can provide enough oxygen for eighteen people”. 1
1. Tree People, Top 22 Benefits of Trees
III. SIMPLE TRUTHS
Photographer Elliott Erwitt once said "It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I've found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them."
Have you ever thought about the multitude of people that have had to fall in love, bear children, who later had to fall in love and bear children, and on and on, to be able to get to the lineage of genes that are pulsing in your body today? What if the train was a few minutes late, and just one of these lovers never caught each other's lingering glance?
I have always revered the notion of family, the caretakers of whom we are born into. Even as a child, I was deeply aware of the past that resided in my parents and grandparents and how the genetic code that I have inherited are connected by a thin, intangible thread through time. I see my image reflected back to me in photographs of people that I never knew: old, stained, sepia-colored images of my family's past. I can see the hidden presence of my father in my son, passed down through me. The lineage of traits and sensibilities, and the things we carry forward with us are all part of the ideas that interest me.
Buried deep in the compilation of yellowed newspaper clippings, my father's promising youth seems like it was just yesterday. As he and my mother are on the latter end of old age, I am at a time of reflection in my own life, trying to grasp the providence within it all. Through photographs of my family, landscapes, and still lifes, Simple Truths continues to weave together our connection to nature and our surroundings. This work is punctuated by the inevitable physical changes that represent the passing of time.
IV. A L C H E M Y
Alchemy offers a reflection on the inexplicable nature of the passage of time and the quiet beauty inherent in the impermanence and patina that come with age. Wabi-sabi denotes that objects can bring about a sense of spiritual longing, that “nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect”. 1
Worn with smears of butter, traces of flour, and personal notations, the recipe cards from generations past are carefully executed and laid out like the last supper for family gatherings. This is my mother’s selfless ceremony: our life centered around nourishment and a table designed to seal our love with intimate conversations and the ties that bind.
On top of my father’s chest of drawers is a small leather box containing the items he holds dear: a shiny kaleidoscope of cuff links, coins, and his most precious material object, his father’s watch. Here lie generations of time ticking quietly away, one second at a time. I am inspired by how we attach meaning to items that we use, grow to love, and cannot part with. This work is about redefining what is considered beautiful, and about finding splendor and solace in items that we hold dear or that even may even go unnoticed.
1. Powell, Richard R. (2004). Wabi Sabi Simple. Adams Media.
The future is promising and holds only half of my gaze, as the other half is looking in the rearview mirror, at the life that will never come to pass again. A once anticipated future is now a string of memories held in the dim light. I believe where and with whom we grow up within this world forever shapes us: our family, the land, our connection to nature, even the thickness of the air. It is interesting that I have traveled all over the world, and now that I am home, I want to document not what is new to me, but a what is part of me.
Like vignettes, the images in Becoming are gathered memories of my children, parents, and surroundings where my family lives. When I was young, time hung heavy like thick air, days moved slowly, life stood still. Now that I am older, the time slips by so quickly it almost feels as if life is unraveling around the edges. Using an 8" x 10" view camera and old lenses, this work allows me to find stillness, and to hold onto these personal memories and moments that we all have to preserve.