My work is inspired by the interconnectedness of our biological lives to all of nature. In recent decades, research shows that we live in a microbial ecosystem and this ecosystem extends within and beyond our skin. We are seeing that human beings can no longer be detached spectators of worsening storms and wildfires, accelerating glacial melt, mass die-offs of insects, birds, other wildlife and pandemics.
Human cultures of the past had an understanding of their unity with all of earth’s organisms. Such an ancient awareness is apparent in an exhibition of objects of the first peoples of the Americas at the Brooklyn Museum. I am struck by one object in particular — a gold Chiriqui pendant of a spider whose legs end in human hands holding a double-headed snake. In this pendant, the spider is given greater status than the human hands. This alteration of hierarchies can be found in the mythologies of many cultures — communicating, cross-species solidarity, power, and awe.
My photo-based works combine images of people’s tattoos with those of flora and fauna. I see tattoos, embedded with myths, icons, plants, animals, as expressions of our veneration of nature. I look for correspondences between living flora and fauna and tattoos of natural imagery. Images are exposed onto a translucent paper which, in its sensuality, is like our skin and the membranes we share with all animate beings. My intention is to create poetic narratives embracing our integral relationship with the earth in this time of climate warming, ocean levels rising and biodiversity extinctions.
A woman, whose hand tattoo of a bird seems to fly toward the large nest she embraces, expresses the need to seek sanctuary. “Holding a Nest” is a physical symbol of this need as globally many peoples are displaced from their homes and nations due to climate disruptions and wars.
In “Nesting a Serpent”, the porousness of part of her body interlaced with the twigs of a nest represents the permeability of our bodies in our environments. New research by scientists tells us that we inhabit an interconnected and microbial web. We are nestled in it, not separate from it.
A man reaches his hand into roots and plants “In the Earth”. We are dependent on the earth and its soil for the food we grow and harvest and for our energy sources, which at present, include oil, gas and coal. Our ability to be a constructive or a destructive player is in our hands. We are bound together in the ecological networks we create.
I believe in imagery that uses the power of its materials and its immediacy to give form, beauty, and illumination to our relationship to the earth. Palladium produces tonal distinctions of extreme subtlety and even the darks reflect light. The paper I use, Japanese gampi paper, is handmade from the fibers of a wild plant and has the quality of silk. Brushing the palladium on this translucent, hand-made, plant-based paper and using the sun for exposure gives spontaneity to each unique work. Painting with Kremer pearl luster watercolor, which refracts light, heightens the drama.
I photograph people’s tattoos with a 4X5″ camera, a professional camera for shooting large scale and highly detailed imagery. I create the films of flora and fauna in my wet darkroom by placing the plant and life materials directly under an enlarger.