These photography-based works are the first few pictures in a new series, Nature Pictures, that I started in October 2021, at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology during a month-long Blue Sky/Sitka Photography Residency.
While walking in the Sitka Spruce-Western Hemlock forest, I spent a lot of time alongside one of the most abundant of the understory plants, the western sword fern. This work documents the merging of this experience in the forest, with the simulacra of that experience.
Ferns, or “vegetable jewelry,” as they were called in 19th century England, have a history of being so popular with (mostly) women that the appreciation of ferns became known as the fern craze or fern fever. This Victorian obsession with ferns led to an explosion of kitsch souvenirs and mementos. I am interested in the melancholic qualities of “nature kitsch,” and how they incite longing and desire while disguising loss [of a deeper connection with nature].
To make these pictures, I used a handheld flash and a green-colored gel to take pictures of the fern fronds. The frond images were then printed, cut up, and taped to an artificial Boston fern that I used as an armature, and placed against a black velvet backdrop. I printed and cut out 3D modeling files of snails and mushrooms and added these to the artificial understory. The tableau was then lit with pink strobe lights and rephotographed with both a 100mm macro lens and a 50mm lens’. The pictures are also manipulated in post-production. For example, in some, I inserted tree and toadstool emojis and used a digital clone tool. Through these iterations, I am challenging myself and the viewer to question perceptions of what we think we are seeing while imagining something beyond.