I’m a deconstructive artist. I degrade and degenerate. I take the precious materials esteemed within the photographic process and ruin them. Following the examples of the originators of abstract expressionist painting and the pioneers of conceptual art, I ask questions of my collective photographic and human history. I ask for explanations from the art world around me as a means of asking for explanations from my self and my humanity. Why do we consider these materials precious? Why do we display our work as miniature shrines to our own existence? Why do we praise the work of our own little hands?
I try to make sense of this world, my place in it, and the human-God relationship I believe in.
My process, as mentioned, is one of deconstruction. I create a photograph on color film typically using a vintage camera. After the film is processed, I employ the most powerful and symbolic source of creation and destruction: fire. I burn the negative. Typically, I don’t preserve that highly valued frame before its ruin. I then print that twisted, ashen, bubbled, and contorted frame—shining light through it to resurrect the image.
Conceptually, photography is a magical practice. While shooting, photographers are light-catchers, while in the darkroom they become light-painters. Perhaps equal parts because of my own inability to draw and paint and my love affair with this dreamy reality, I take photographs. However, my pre-baccalaureate training was entirely in painting rather than photography. Therefore, my hands are heavy in the process.
I’m a fine art photographer and I’m a Christian. I’ve spent years attempting to reconcile the fact that I spend so much of my time destroying images. Destruction is the antithesis of the Christian pillar of redemption and the hope and promise of a new heaven and new earth. However, it is during this Lenten season that my process makes the most sense… it’s based in the salvation story of redemption.
Two years ago I started a series called Flesh during the Lenten season. Last Lent I started a series about frozen rivers. This year, I’m beginning a series called Dust.
I sat in a stunning Ash Wednesday service last week while the images and inspirations for my Dust series ran through my mind. I realized the above pattern of Lenten conceptual productivity and wondered at the foundations of the season. Something in this season bleeds visual productivity in my mind.
“Remember from dust you come, and to dust you will return.”
I realized something about the conceptual side of my process: I deconstruct because I know I am broken. I am human, and I know that in that humanness, solely, I cannot improve the work that God has already made. I deconstruct, because I know we’ve betrayed His original Beauty.
But I deconstruct- I allow decay- I make out of dust because I know He will redeem it. I know He will set it right. I know that God, who is the continual Creator in my spirit and in this world, will make new. His continual creation will redeem every mess. I burn images of this landscape because we destroy it and I need to know there is beautiful redemption waiting.
The flame I take to the negative mimics my ever-creative God’s refining fire in our lives. Though He has made us beautiful, we have chosen something else… but He is ever-refining us to our best, most-intended selves.
“Remember, from dust you come, and to dust you will return.”
Father, forgive us.