These images are made from expired Polaroid film without exposure by a variety of processing techniques. Prints are approximately 24 x 30” archival pigment prints on fiber paper and printed in an edition of 9.
Michel Foucault, a French historian whose writings were philosophical, regarded the term “episteme” as indicating a basis for all possible knowledge and discourses for a particular era. Vilem Flusser, in his Toward A Philosophy of Photography defined the episteme of the camera as an “apparatus,” something through which possibilities are programmed, predicted, limited and thoroughly redundant. My use of the term episteme for this series is an attempt to define the realm of possibilities and dictates of the usually invisible or underplayed stratum of film. The Polaroid film, in itself, lends a tremendous amount to our understanding of objects we recognize. Because these prints result from film that was never exposed, they are representations of the capacities of the film rather than any outward objects.
“In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one episteme that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in a theory or silently invested in a practice.”
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things
"The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard,
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard."
Wallace Stevens, The Idea of Order at Key West
"The medium is the message"
"The Medium is the Massage"
When traveling through the Southwest, the land can appear simply empty when viewed from a speeding car or glanced at and forgotten on a flyover. Inhospitable. Uninhabitable even. This is of course not the case. The land is full of life, of references to former cultures, of the footprints and artifacts of humanity as fascinating as anything at Lascaux, and of the wonder of life in a landscape carved out by the will to survive. The images here are produced with water based inks in conjunction with photographic materials and some photographic processes, and then photographed and printed.
Polaroid began making film to introduce its special polymer in 1937 and continued production until 2008. There is a surprising amount of film still in circulation, most of it, even if stored correctly (refrigerated at optimal humidity) most likely useless for its designed purpose. The convoluted production of the film, which required astounding waste and alkalinity, made something beautiful in itself.
I began to explore Polaroid film in its "muted" form; that is, not representative of any dimensional object but of itself only. The works in this series involve disassembling Polaroid pack film, painting oil and alkyd onto Polaroid 664 film substrate, and then "processing" the film against the Polaroid paper or onto aluminum foil. I have photographed the results in order to enlarge the images to reveal the richness of the artifacts that result partly from the process, partly from the crazy beauty of Polaroid.
Nine images, each approx. 16x20 in., total dimension approx 52x64 in.
Nine images, each approx. 16x20 in., total dimension approx. 43 x 66 in. mounted on gessoed panel.
Nine images, each approx. 16x20 in., total dimension approx. 43 x 66 in. mounted on gessoed panel.
Four images, each approx. 16x20 in., total dimension approx 33 x 44 in.
Waiting for Gravity I
"How many times, in my garden, I have experienced the disappointment of discovering a nest too late. Autumn was there, the leaves had already begun to fall and in the fork of two branches there was an abandoned nest. To think that they had all been there: the father bird, the mother bird and all the nestlings. And I had not seen them!"
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
"Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden but the unbearable lightness of being."
"The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting."
Waiting for Gravity II
"What I prefer, about post cards, is that one does not know what is in front or what is in back, here or there, near or far, the Plato or the Socrates, the recto or verso. Nor what is the most important, the picture or the text, and in the text, the message or the caption, or the address. Here, in my post card apocalypse..."
Jacques Derrida, The Post Card
"Have you listened in at God's keyhole / and crept away with his plans? / What do you know that we don't? / What have you seen that we haven't?"
The Book of Job [trans. Stephen Mitchell]
Connections are made, not ready-made.
What is it that brings us together, and keeps us apart? What is it that holds us in our frame, suspended? What art?
David Koehn "The Aquarium at the Potluck"
for Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Charlotte
In the Winter Stands the Lonely Tree
Painted lips have an ancient history, a practice along the centuries for both men and women. To appear healthy and vibrant is a wish somehow parallel with and yet somehow beyond the phenomenon of good health. And somehow detached. My 10-year-old son Lucas painted these leaves with me for the project.
Drawings made with red and purple cotton thread and shadow. Because the drawings depend on the momentary, long shadows created by the setting sun, the drawings do not exist as anything but photographs.
These images are physical manipulations of a 1955 Brownie Camera photograph. The original photograph is not sharp, not perfectly framed, obviously a tourist's snapshot, and beautiful for its lack of self-consciousness. There is no art in the original but the urge to plead with temporality: this is here, now, and the photographer will not be in this spot or in this moment for long. A picture does not bring us back to a place but refuses what we try to pile onto that split-second moment. Like the symbolism of the images' purported subject, there is no end to failing to get it right.
“Nothing in art is so true that its opposite cannot be made even truer.”
—Leo Steinberg, “Jasper Johns: The First Seven Years of His Art”
“The opposite of every truth is just as true!”
"The work makes public something other than itself; it manifests something other..."
—Heidegger, The Origin of The Work of Art
"All is strife; everything turns into its opposite"
I used an iPhone to make images of crema—the rich foam that forms on my morning espresso—in the summer morning light. These relatively uninteresting experiments in isolating the patterns in the foam as it dissipates became much more interesting in the process of making negatives of the images for platinum printing.
The immediate and physically simple transition from positive to negative colors rendered haunting possibilities—the universe unfolding like cells on a slide, or impossible planets brimming with the promise of sustainable life. In my art practice, I am most interested in the fundamental rejection of the apparent by photographs, in the idea that pictures hold their meaning in abeyance, the way the unconscious— to a trained and curious mind—is clearly visible in our actions but otherwise elusive. In this sense, even the apparent accidental arrival at meaning in the pictures seems destined, as if I had been after these images without understanding them.
Though I made slight adjustments to the digital images as I would have analog images in a darkroom, I left them almost entirely without affect. The blue in these images, for example, is the natural negative of the beige/brown color of the crema, though brown coffee has nothing to do with these pictures. They come instead from processes, not from things.
After Ascension and Descent
I take the title of this portfolio, “After Ascension and Descent,” from a phrase by Pierre Joris in A Nomad Poetics in which he calls for an approach to writing that accounts for what Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari refer to as “rhizomatic,” allowing for varieties of discourse, idioms, syntax, even languages.
I gave the work this title because I am at a loss when it comes to speaking of knowing one’s roots. My family, with its adopted members, silence about its past, reverence for the absolute at the expense of the profane, has taught me to speak one language only. To be monolingual is to be foreshortened, and like so many Americans I know I speak a provincial, not a global, language. The advent of “wireless” living does nothing to allay this. If anything, we are almost hopelessly tethered—to each other, to the world. It’s when we forget this, when we think we are free beyond complicity, that we encounter trouble looking for meaning.
Thinking in these terms has resulted in these images, an expression of desire for growth at the moment of inhibition, when hesitation is the gap between desiring and having.
Burned inkjet print over platinum/palladium print.
My aim here was to expose each piece of the Reconstructions one at a time when I printed them so that the image would no longer seem quite as continuous. The lack of wholeness is unsettling on some level and yet satisfying. Because my aim was not to destroy anything, I tried out ways to put the picture, the landscape, and the world back together using push pins, darts, tape, staples, glue and also thread. I liked the feel and the motion of the needle piercing the image surface, so I settled on sewing with cotton thread. It’s a game in some ways, an approximation of how I would guess my own consciousness works to make a complete picture of an object. To most of us, the world is not whole. It’s broken, and we each put it together as we need it to be for us. I want for viewers of the pictures to get something that came to me as I produced these artifacts, a recapitulation of my process of making a picture.
All the Reconstructions are printed on handmade Japanese Gampi, produced by the late Masao Seki. I handcoated the paper with platinum and palladium and exposed the images, in individual pieces, separately in the sun. After washing and drying the paper I trimmed and sewed the separately exposed pieces to another sheet of washi, then added other sewing or addenda as the image called for it.
Metempsychosis is the belief in the transmigration of souls, the speculation that the spirit of a living thing migrates after death into another living thing. All of these images consist of one object only, which has been manipulated--spun around, wiggled, or dropped multiple times during a single exposure, or over the course of several exposures. One negative takes anywhere from a few minutes to a half hour to make. I aim to find gesture not only in subject matter but in idea: we are stepping into the river Heraclitus wrote we step into just once, and we're looking at the others before us who have stepped into the river that is always moving. The subject of each of these images is one floral stem, but like our own bodies, it echoes the life of its ancestors in its mellifluous state of being.