Fictional Reality: The Photograph and Its Object

Paper and string are modest materials. They are temporal. These are simple, innocent moments where the sober gesture of a fold or bend can evoke the fullness of a body part or create an architectural space for us to fall into. The way light reflects along the edge of the paper sets a line moving in space while the sweep of the plane absorbs the light’s warmth, which models its exterior and transmits a warmer light into its surface, so that the interior glows. A slight glisten from the Tyvek bound to the inside surface shifts the state of exterior to interior, reminding us of an inside and an outside. Loops and ends of string perform gestures, pulling the paper taught, dangling at its side. A subtle difference, a materiality that allows for containment on the one hand and quiet assertion on the other. All the while the fact that this is mere paper and string never quite escapes our mind, creating a tension between, on one hand, what simply is, these modest materials, and the thing or space we enter, on the other.

It is important that the light in the photograph not be artificial. The only light source is from my studio window. The object and the photograph are instantly and clearly recognizable as in and of the world we share while at the same time bodying forth one that is fictional. Important too is that the digital image is not cropped. Framing the object within the moment the image is shot ties the fictional space of the photograph back again to the world we inhabit registering it at a particular moment in time. One issue that actively engages me now is that of size. I am experimenting with printing the photographs at different sizes and mounting or framing them in ways that fully realize the photographic side of the dialogue they’re meant to carry on with the sculptural objects they picture.

 The horizon line, which is a leitmotif of my practice, is specific and concrete as well as blurry and ambiguous. At times water meets the sky with no discernable mass visible, just a line. Other times, the landscape meets the sky in the distance and while we know there are buildings or trees or a mountain range they are so far away we can’t quite make out their distinct form. It is these moments of certain uncertainty I am considering. When what we see vacillates between known and unknown, between confirmation and doubt. The horizon line factors in another way within my work, as a means of orienting the beholder. Growing up at the ocean established an understanding of my self/body in relation to the world, one that is inseparable from the experience of the horizon line the ocean presents, which is plainly visible—the immutable and salient feature of the oceanscape—and an imaginary line—a geometrical abstraction with only a phenomenal reality. The horizon line orients us to or grounds us, if you will, in the space in which we are standing. I look for a similar relationship between the paper objects and the photographic image as well as between work in each of those media and the beholder.

In this current series “Fictional reality: the photograph and its object”, I move back and forth between paper objects and the photographs I make of them. Reflections and transmitted light, glowing edges and silhouetted forms help them teeter between their being as objects and their being as phenomena of shadow and light. I use light, focal length, focus, and implied relations of scale in the photographs to construct the beholder’s relation to the motif—the sculpture—in a way that insists powerfully on what I consider to be the most important visual effects they produce while at the same time offering a view that is absolutely different from any beholder’s empirical experience of the sculpture. For instance, the shallow depth of field I use to emphasize a sculpture’s contour is not a feature of a real, human view of the object. The easily felt, almost unavoidable, intuition of the paper object’s readiness for the human grasp—the way it fits in the open palm of one’s hand—is not a part of the photographs, in which the choice of lens and the presence (in most cases) of the horizon line as pictorially low and close in relation to the object, remake its relation to human scale in a curious, fictional way. I have come to see these divergences, between the sculptural and the photographic, as basically internal to the work as a whole.

In my practice, working back and forth between materials and techniques in sculpture and photography allows different aspects of my larger thematic concerns to appear individually and allows one facet to appear juxtaposed to the next. The “conversation” and influence each process affords the others has brought breadth of effects and surprising consequences for my own development.