June 18, 1997
This series took me by surprise. I had every intention of doing work for two different series, Hymns to Gaia and Asylum, having hundreds of sketches executed and materials collected, waiting for further development. I hadn’t intended to develop this body of work. It came to me. And I am a firm believer in following a mysterious call if it beckons with a certain degree of clarity and power.
I find very often the best images take me by surprise. I feel a body of work is often strongest and most sincere when it challenges its viewers and its creator equally to consider new perspectives and ideas. I love this process of discovery; though it can be unsettling not to be able to offer an answer to the question, “Why this?” The simple answer “It is.” can be enough. But when you can say “It is!” you know you’re onto something, even if you don’t know what you’ve got hooked at the other end of the line. If the line is pulling hard, you have to reel it in.
Whether this process of being taken by surprise is a matter of visitation by another power or of the work having reached a point of sufficient depth to lift the veils that screen a pure welling up of the subconscious is less important than the simple statement that the work generated resonates with power. These images hold power. I don’t know the full import of their message but they have meaning, meaning which becomes clearer with the passage of time and continued participation with them. Yet at the root of their breath, their life, is a mysterious force that defies definition. Any spirit ultimately resists the limitations of a definition and can offer lasting value only through an experience of its totality.
In the process of fleshing out work for the Elemental series, a new body of work arose. It became clear that a group of images were forming a close alliance, would benefit from the subdual of color, and could stand alone as a separate series with a unified focus. Curiously, this series seems to be a merging of the sensibilities in my two prior bodies of work, Elemental and Rites of Passage.
Allies borrows the concern with an extended palette of rich and varied toning of monochromatic and subdued color images from Rites of Passage. The removal or subdual of color in my work relates the images more closely with a spectral or dreamlike realm. The comparative lack of color minimizes the emphasis of the material and the temporal and amplifies the spiritual and the eternal. Yet there is color in these images. All blacks and whites are not the same. Each has a specific color that imparts a unique character to it. This subtle coloring can produce a profound psychological effect in the viewer. And so I have chosen the subtle color of these works very carefully. Whereas in Rites of Passage I began using the removal of color and subsequent toning formally to unify elements within a single composition, in Allies I began to push the toning further to separate space and define form with contrasting tints, creating a more varied emotional palette within a single image. Allies also continues the exploration of complex Rorschach patterns derived from natural elements begun in the Elemental series. While the Elemental series tends towards formalism and abstraction, usually depicting planes and spaces rather than discrete objects, the work in Allies employs a discrete outline to contain the symmetrical pattern and thus heightens our natural tendencies towards personification and animation. Further, I feel it lends itself to the characterization of a latent spirit within the surface of nature. This work is in essence a fictive extension of the process I describe as reading the face of nature in the Elemental series.
Often when I am in nature, I feel that I am in the presence of a spirit or spirits. Mythology and folklore have a highly creative vocabulary for these earth energies: fairies, dragons, elementals, etc. Brand me as a romantic or a mystic if you must, but I have the deepest conviction that we are spiritual beings, as well as material beings, and that we are not the only spiritual beings in existence. Label me animistic if you must, but I believe everything has soul, that is, a unique essence. Were I Hindu, Buddhist or Christian, I would most likely hold the belief that every atom is a part of God or a higher universal force. Were I a practitioner of Chinese Feng Shui or a Celtic druid aligning stones, I would most likely hold that the earth, nature, has a moving, living spirit coursing through it and that it influences the land and its inhabitants. Travel widely and one must conclude that each area or geographic region is unique and has a specific character ÷ one might even say spirit.
his work is not a simple document of my encounters with the varied spirit of nature; it is a collaboration with it ÷ an alliance. None of these images were fully conceived in the field. While I am very much responding to the power of nature when I am in it, these images evolve after I have responded to it with a camera. I did not have these visions in the field, though some elements could be visualized there; and they are not recordings of waking reveries, though some are derived from images in dreams. The process of assembling these images is almost like dreaming while Iâm awake.
Again I find my digital work poised on a balancing point between apprehension (the recognition and capture of an event) and intention (the generative realization of an internal reality). Both modes of creation can find various balances between being deliberate and controlled or receptive and spontaneous. The balance in this work is curious; it is at once descriptive of an original encounter and revelatory of an internal gestation of that moment.
This work gives shape to the sensed but unseen. When I first saw these images appear, I was struck by how much they reminded me of the spirit of the place where the original materials were drawn from. Sometimes fiction reveals “truth,” as opposed to fact, better. Sometimes the purely factual disguises or belies the “truth.” These are fictions and, like poetry, they rely on metaphor and simile to bring revelation. They have only the power of their being to confirm their truths.