this series I am exploring the ways we negotiate landscape with respect
to how we repair, ignore, or replace sites that have been altered in
some fashion. From the abandoned box store to the patching of sports
fields we are constantly manipulating our landscape to benefit our needs.
All these sites are at different points along a continuum from repaired
wilderness to large scale alterations. At times nature is taking its
course, regardless of man, taking over the parking lot, seeding itself
into any available crevice, persisting despite and because of the initial
I am interested in how we materialize these remediations and their successes
or failures. I am questioning whether it is important how we repair
the landscape, or is the end result; a grassy expanse, enough for us
in our age of simulacra. Does it matter to the larger culture whether
grass was even the appropriate plant in that particular place? Through
imaging these places I find a visual dialogue with these ideas and questions
and a deepening of understanding of the landscape of the Western United
States. Living in the Four Corners region there are large expanses of
land that have historically been looked upon as ‘useless’,
‘uninhabitable’, and ‘ugly’. Due to these misconceptions
we have given over vast areas to exploitive harvesting of minerals and
living here it is impossible to ignore these incursions. In our current
era the notion that we can redeem our acts through hydro seeding over
a field that has lost all its natural contours, that we can mend the
earth is a curious one, it is as Richard Misrach might say, a non-equivalent.
making of piles is a way of ordering. I once knew a boat builder whose
yard was full of materials he and his brother had collected from the
town dump. Piles of copper, piles of iron, neat little pyramids, sorted
and ordered. The piles I find in the landscape that I have been photographing
always reminds me of that boat builder, and his impulse to sift through
his environment, ordering it, defining it. The piles range from small
rakings of grass to boulders piled up by bulldozers, they are individual
and collective. They are even plants that look like piles, the contour
of the mound being common to plants and piles.
Moving to southwest Colorado from the verdant northwest was a dramatic
shift in environment. There is an openness to living in the southwest,
simply by virtue of the dominant flora. There are no towering trees
to enclose us just scrubby junipers and sagebrush, we are exposed. Such
a landscape allows the messiness of life to be a bit more apparent than
maybe elsewhere. Easterner’s who visit are always struck by some
of the ugliness of the habitation in the west. The trailers and tract
homes that litter the high desert bear little in common with the polished
edges of the New England farm to be sure. But there remains an honesty
to the process of becoming that the east has long since finished with.
Those rough edges provide texture, depth, and realness, in an otherwise
Driving highway 550 from Santa Fe, the landscape is huge; buttes rise
up multicolored and iconic. This is where I first saw piles of stones
stored by the side of the highway for road improvements and thought
of photographing them. They were so human in scale in an otherwise outsized
landscape; they were all equal in size, equidistantly placed along the
road, cairns for the D.O.T. I returned sometime later to photograph
them, but they had been laid into the roadbed. Teaching me my first
lesson in photographing piles, they are transitory. They are materials
in process, moving from here to there. It is the rearranging of the
west, the shifting of resources, the cleaning of the landscape that
piles represent. They are also a part of the landscape we visually overlook
when faced with the enormity of the wide-open spaces of the west. It
is a hard place to look at your feet when there are 10,000 foot peaks
in the distance. But maybe by looking at our feet we may better understand
our relationship with this landscape.
in our daily lives keeps us in contact with the natural world? The garden
mediates our relationship to nature. Gardens are miniature landscapes
and in them we create spaces that reflect how we see the landscape beyond
the enclosure of the garden. I am interested in how wild nature slips
through the cracks of our cultivated world. In the weeds on the side
of the road there is a life and energy, a fight for survival, and violence
and death. There is a microcosm of all struggle for existence ever known
in a few feet of dirt. I am interested in what lies just at the edge
of the confines of our civilized existence and our fear of the unknown.
Our manipulation of the landscape and its relationship to our perception
of what is ‘wilderness’ is central to my work. In both the
created landscape of the garden, and in wild places I find a tension
between order and chaos, a sense of place and placelessness. In my images
I try to confront the viewer with spaces that contain both. I am seeking
a visual metaphor for our perception of the landscape before the mediation
of language resolves or assures us of our position within the structure.
Through the photographic image I am exploring the direct sensory experience
of being located within nature. I want to animate nature, to give it
a forum that is not from the perspective of humans over nature but one
where humans are embedded in nature.
The landscape of childhood has been a continual resource for my work.
The perception of landscape experienced in childhood is one of acceptance
of forces beyond ourselves, and retains the knowledge that we are one
element within a larger system. As we grow, we differentiate ourselves
from nature; resulting in an estrangement from its cyclical processes.
The transference of energy and the transcendence of matter into other
physical states is unending yet finite; nothing in this universe is
lost, simply transformed. Though we are inextricably tied into this
process of transference of energies, we conceive of ourselves as separate.
We are plugged into this process, extracting, consuming, and producing,
moving elements through the chain. Our bones are made of stars, we are
passing though physical states; we too will become dispersed energy,
nitrogen, potash, and apple.