Shades in the Dust

Shades in the Dust is a visual poem about the psychological and spiritual terrain upon which I have spent the majority of my life. This work marks a transition for me, a pivot point in my existence. There is a nexus here where boy has finally become man, and where I have begun to emerge from the fantasy of youth into the reality of adulthood.

I have found that the journey is one of letting go as much as it is of understanding the past. The shapes and colors in Shades in the Dust are echoes of the past and prognostications about the future. The narrative that emerges is one of tradition and fantasy, mystery and meaning: a haunted south, composed of strange signs, where the furies of nature and the pain of the past walk hand in hand. 

Purposefully abstract and fractured, this narrative is also archetypal in that it represents recurring childhood anxieties and a constant fixation with the concept of motherhood. The often-anonymous woman here is a symbol for the complex relationship between mother and child. The resulting photographs are images of moments both real and utterly imagined, as much dreams as they are memories.

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Dreams Like Yesterday

The erosion of the landscape by human means irrevocably altered the habitat of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Actions like these have led to the implementation of systematic conservation methods. These methods, while helping to raise public awareness, have also led to a distortion of perceptions about endangered species.

 Within this world of conservation, the act of observation stands apart for me. Bird watching is an action that is separate from intervention. It is the act of seeing that most intrigues me. As in photography, observation, not just seeing, helps us to understand the world we live in.

The acts of watching, archiving and remembering are critical in constructing this work as a meditation on the fragility of existence. Our memories are mutable, our experience subject to alteration. Like the ivory-billed woodpecker, our existence is constantly in peril. We live our lives under the threat of multiple existential problems.

The examination of the narrative of the ivory-billed woodpecker has exposed these philosophical concerns for me. Inside that story, our own existence and meaning is interwoven. The cyclical nature of our lives becomes more transparent in this context and the paradox of our actions clearer. For every problem we look for a solution and with that solution we create another set of obstructions. 

 

Read my MFA thesis here: Scattered Feathers

 

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 Built on Ashes

In the hills of Northeastern Mississippi lies Oxford, Mississippi, a cultural oasis surrounded by miles and miles of primarily rural counties. This area is the center of author William Faulkner’s fictional Yoknapatawpha County, a place that does indeed exist, if only in the mind, a hidden mirror world you can only see after living here for many years. It is this parallel reality, this place between actuality and invention that I examine in Built on Ashes.

 

It is no coincidence that Yoknapatawpha should mean “split land”. It is this schism that is center most in Built on Ashes, a rift that points toward a failure to reconcile old beliefs and modern conventions. What is hidden, what is recycled, what is taken and what persists are questions that fascinate me and they are a constant element that recurs within this work.

 

Things lost or discarded, incessant revisions, pomp and pretense, humility and struggle; this is the place I see. My perception bends reality into a shape that echoes my understanding. It’s hard to know what came first here: this culture of exaggerated style and excess, with a special penchant for liquor, or Faulkner’s heightened description of it. Like Faulkner’s vision, the narrative I reference is one of memory and imagination, but still rooted in things that actually exist. The sequence of the images is non-linear and elliptical and obliquely recalls my love of cinema.

 

Within Faulkner’s novels, the town of Oxford is referred to as Jefferson, a useful metaphor for this work, as my viewpoint is slightly off-kilter, recalling a novel in it’s multiple characters and locations. Scholars who study the past, clandestine sojourns, discarded spaces, lost items; these sound the tone of a melancholy place that grew up around me. Here in Jefferson, I find myself in a past that won’t let me go. Here in Jefferson, I’m home.

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