The Lost Statement

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This quick Photoshop collage is not a part of my recent exhibitions. I put together this comp to compare the different looks of some daguerreotype textures provided by Caleb Kimbrough at Lost and Taken. Nevertheless, I think it proves to be a fitting accompaniment to the short artist statement I drafted for my current show at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro, OR.

It turns out that the Arts Center didn't have a designated location to post statements so this brief composition will find its only home here.

* * * * *

I spend a good deal of time longing to be outdoors.

This wasn’t always true. Much of my life played out in the suburbs and cities of Southern California where there are no true seasons— everything blooms and grows unchecked if you water it enough. Leaves don’t turn vibrant colors. Snow never blankets the ground. The sky is perpetually laden with heat and the particulate offerings of tailpipes. In such a place there was little incentive to be outdoors, and I had no real conception of the breadth and majesty of the natural world until I moved to the Willamette Valley.

That first year in Oregon I would drive around the farmlands outside of Salem, or up into the coastal range to the West, and I would witness a nature more magnificent than I’d ever imagined. Who knew the moon could be so large? How is it possible to have concentric rainbows? Isn’t it incongruous how the combines are so loud but create a dusty film that filters the setting sun into a splash of shadowy purple across the fields? In that year I discovered a sublime beauty and, quite by coincidence, I also discovered photography.

Well, I discovered pinhole photography anyway, which is a very primitive sort of way to take a picture; the camera being nothing more than a cardboard box with a hole to allow in some light like a lens would on a “real” camera. To be honest, the pinhole cameras I constructed did a poor job of capturing any of the sublime moments I witnessed, but in their indistinct and blurry compositions I discovered something equally beautiful. These crude images conveyed something about the underlying shape of nature; about nature in motion. A picture postcard of a vista doesn’t tend to do that, it just boasts about being somewhere. An image like that is about conquering a bit of landscape, whereas the pinhole image that takes minutes (or even hours) to expose is about experiencing a place.

Eventually, I began to supplement my collection of muzzy pinhole images with antique photos that had similar properties. I would hunt through flea markets and junk shops for damaged and discarded impressions of nature. Then I would transform both my images, and the found images, into drawings like the ones you see exhibited here. These drawings allow me to adjust the scale of the images and to perhaps even improve upon the original negative by adjusting the composition or contrast of the subject as I draw it.

I suppose I could outline that drawing process here, but it is complicated, and the only important thing to understand is that the process allows me to devote time to each image— more time than one person ever really devotes to a picture these days when imagery in ubiquitous and, quite frankly, exhausting.

The way we spend our time says a great deal about what we value. When I consider these landscapes that I’ve drawn, whether they are places I photographed or places some anonymous photographer felt compelled to record, I realize how important these moments that cause us to stop in wonder- to stop in awe- actually are, and I feel a great longing to step outside and discover everything all over.

August 2009, Portland, OR

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