BA/Social Science, Michigan State University
My images have always been fundamentally about form. Forms manifest in the resonance of a curve, the rhythm of a pattern, the dichotomy of light and shadow. They abound everywhere in nature: the twist of a leaf, the overlap of feathers on a bird's wing,the symmetry of an unfurling flower. We emulate them in our human creations: the arch of a cathedral, the weave of a textile. These innate forms, abstractions from the larger world, resonate with us at a basic level and help us to organize and understand our world. The images in this exhibition are selected from two related, ongoing bodies of work: Florilegium and Investigations.
Begun in 1998, Florilegium explores my enduring fascination with the botanical world as I experience it primarily through my garden. Gardens are an easily accessible way for us to reconnect daily with the natural world and be reminded of our place in it. This essential connection is what I endeavor to share in my images. My expression has taken the form of photo-collages that combine plants and flowers in ways that may not occur in reality. My intent is to create multilayered fantasies as I weave the plants together, altering their scale and transparency to create compositions that bring the viewer's attention to details they may not have noticed before. I am drawn to plants that are past their prime - the burnished hues and twisted shapes of flowers as they age communicate a subtle beauty beyond the perfection of full bloom. Their senescence speaks to the cycle of life.
Investigations: Collections from Life, begun in 2009, is inspired by Florilegium and the questions I've asked myself about new directions the work might take. Over the years of creating Florilegium collages my idea about objects to include has grown to encompass natural elements beyond the botanical - feathers, tree bark, dragonfly wings. What if I cast even further for subjects? The images in this series are my investigations of objects I have collected: bits of flowers and plants, feathers, rocks, empty nests, a turtle shell, butterfly wings, beets sprouting new growth, onions splitting their golden skins. They represent the living and the dead, the permanent and the transient. They are beings that fly, flower, feed us, avoid us. These collages are investigations of these objects - these beings - their relationships, similarities and uniquenesses. They are, to me, reminders of all that I don't know and understand but cause me to marvel and wonder.
The process I use in Florilegium and Investigations is an unusual one called cameraless photo-collage. I use a flatbed scanner rather than a camera and lens to record my subjects. When I started working with this technique fourteen years ago it was quite unheard of. Since then, many artists have begun to use scanners as capture devices. The genre has gained recognition as a new form of photography called scanography.
Many photographers working with scanners create a composition on the scanner bed as a single scan and that becomes their finished image. My pieces are photo-collages made from multiple scans of original objects. A final image may include a dozen or more scans that I combine digitally and finesse over a period of days. This process allows me to create my own reality making compositions that move beyond the original scans as they interact with each other and I react to and guide their interactions. The recording quality of the flatbed scanner coupled with the weaving together of scans through collage yields images that are at once sensuously soft and superbly sharp.
Cameraless images are as old as the photographic medium itself. Mine contribute to a tradition of botanical subject matter begun with Henry Fox Talbot's Photogenic drawings of plant materials (ca.1830's) and Anna Atkin's cameraless botanical studies of British Algae (ca.1843). It is fitting that my images relate to these earliest photographic works in both technique and subject matter.