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WildStones

WildStones

Multiplicity, 2000

The challenge with Wild Stones was to pack as many angles of a single object into a single image and still have them look like separate objects. I’d done it many times by representing both the front and back of an object simultaneously. In other images, four sides of an object looked like four similar but distinctly different objects. To pull this off, the objects needed to be fairly nonuniform in shape. Spheres and ellipses were too regular; the contour of such objects from many angles is virtually the same. I knew I needed a complicated, highly irregular object for this image.

The form of the rock that my assistant brought me seemed organic. It was highly complex and irregular. Its contour as seen from multiple angles varied wildly. It even contained hollows and holes that, when viewed at the proper angle, could be seen through. At one angle, it reminded me of a Native American bear fetish. At other angles, it reminded me of internal organs, a heart and a liver. At another angle, it reminded me of African earth structures. At still another angle, it reminded me of a modern sculpture, perhaps a Henry Moore. At yet another angle, it reminded me of the shell for an unknown high-tech device. It was perfect.

Taking my cue from the stones, I searched my archives for an appropriate landscape to support them. I looked for a land with similar color and texture to imply a unity between it and the stone(s). Like the stones, the domes of Tent Rocks, New Mexico, are organic and seem curiously constructed. Every time I visit them, I marvel at how highly structured they are. It’s hard to think that someone did not make them or that they did not arise as the result of growth driven by a genetic code. The dichotomy between organic and constructed, an organ or architecture of earth, matched my associations with the stones.

I could have changed the scale, proportion, tone, or color of the rock to reinforce a sense of separateness. Instead, I limited myself to changing angle. I searched for a delicate balance between similarity and difference, pushing to see how far I could go without disrupting one or the other. Slight shifts in color between each stone arose due to the method of color correction I chose. I could have eliminated these variations, but the subtle rainbow of hues introduced accentuated each stone’s individuality while creating a shimmering effect throughout the image.

I could have scattered the separate stones across the picture plane at random intervals, even choosing to hide them amid a similarly textured background, as I have in other compositions. I could have placed the separate stones in a rigidly spaced line, as I have in other compositions. But this time I chose to find a solution midway between the two. Here the stones compact as they descend and disperse as they rise vertically. Their placement implies a spreading or a settling motion, an expansion and a contraction, as well as a rotation. The rotation is erratic. If it were in smaller increments, if the adjacent aspects within the sequence more closely resembled one another, the impression of separateness would be undercut.

As I moved the long tall spine of rocks back and forth across the picture plane, they coalesced off center, flush right. I knew that the proportion of landscape necessary to fulfill the picture would be fairly small. That would leave a vast expanse of space in the upper left. The image would be composed of more space than figure and the center would be empty. All the action would be contained at the edges of the picture. I did not expect to echo the stone vertebrae with a line of clouds, but the empty sky somehow did not fulfill the image. I found a spine of clouds that complemented both the separateness and unity of the stones and the curvilinear sway of the horizon. Stacatto rhythms punctuated each element, yet they all found a unity against a vast expanse of sky. Curiously, the shape of emptiness, the negative space, between the cloud, horizon, and stones became stronger as a result. The invisible or the empty, has an equal presence with the visible or the full. The image found breath — inhalation and exhalation.

I often make multiple exposures, at times even multiple images, of an object or environment. As I move through or around it, my viewpoint changes and I make multiple exposures. I’m less interested in finding a single decisive moment within a larger span of time and more interested in seeing the entire experience as a decisive moment. So I make many documents of the transformations; the appearance of something or somewhere undergoes as my experience of it evolves to encompass more and more of it. While we all use photographs to remember the way something was at a particular time, I also use a set of photographs to help me maintain a sense of the many aspects of something that arise through time. I see them not as separate but as parts of a whole. Multiplicity challenges me to take a longer view. Multiplicity challenges me to find the unity in what I had originally perceived as separate, but upon further consideration found to be whole.