My work is inspired by the ancient and complex relationship of plants and animals to human cultures. When nature and humanity were in harmony, people 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 — 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 as gateways to merge our human experience with the larger world of animals and plants. I look for correspondences between living flora and fauna and tattoos of natural imagery, such as animals, serpents, insects, flowers, butterflies and mythological iconography. 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.
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. The darks of palladium, a metal 35 times more rarer than gold, reflect light. Palladium produces tonal distinctions of extreme subtlety. 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.