Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work
I grew up in Virginia and didn’t stumble upon photography until my late twenties. I always enjoyed exploring and around that time I took a photo I liked, so I read magazine articles for more information. I found it was more complex and interesting than I thought, so I took a class at a community college and loved it immediately. Years later and I’m still very passionate about photography-there’s always something new to learn and explore. After my two-year degree I went to the Corcoran in Washington, DC for my BFA and then Tyler in Philadelphia for my MFA. After that I taught for fourteen years, first at Hollins University and then at Iowa State University. I resigned from Iowa State in December to pursue my creative practice and since then have attended an artist residency in California for two months and have begun a new project.
In my work, I use digital and film photography, video, and sound to explore the human existence in, and impact on, the environment. Often I collect evidence to bring visibility to the ephemeral or overlooked. For example, I scanned in cigarette debris and made large prints showing the fine details, and since 2016 I have been photographing airborne particles, such as industrial and agricultural emissions, for a project called In the Air. My new project, Encased in a Timberbox, is about the increasing frequency, massive scale, and incredible destruction of the wildfires in California. It also addresses the repercussions, which includes trauma from past fires and anxiety about future ones.
What potential do you feel artists have to help bring about change?
I think the potential for artists to bring about change is pretty high for a few reasons. Many artists are informed, passionate, and driven to express ideas and concerns. They use work to engage emotion and intellect or to question. Artists often work visually, which can create a memorable impact or a visceral response. In addition, they use established channels such as social media, websites, journals, magazines, and newsletters to reach audiences, but also work outside of those approaches to reach disparate groups. Many of these approaches can make issues visible, which has the potential to help bring about change.
Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work
The themes in my work are mostly environmental. My specific concerns are the pervasive effects of air pollution, the traumatic effects of climate change-related events, and the disproportionate environmental impacts on poorer communities. I am curious about the tactics that have been used to sow doubt about climate change and wonder about approaches to counter that. I am also very interested in environmental psychology. Why do we pollute the air and land when we need both to survive? Why do we destroy nature when we turn to it for peace and refuge and joy?
What art do you most identify with?
Light-based art fuels my soul, and I identify with photography and any 2D, 3D, or performance work that addresses environmental issues.
Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? what is your most essential tool?
In the studio, I couldn’t live without my computer and software. A close second is tea, followed by headphones for focus. Outside the studio, my camera and ability to roam are vital.
What place do you think artists have in the political sphere?
I believe artists should follow their inner voices, and if that leads to the political sphere, then I’m all for it.
What do you feel the role of artists and photographers is in society?
I believe artists examine, reflect, and question society. I also believe that artists who express their ideas contribute to a larger dialogue and provide support for those who will not or cannot express themselves.
On a personal level, I have a driving need to develop my voice through my work. The expression is cathartic for me, especially when I’m dealing with issues that are disturbing. I am also interested in raising awareness about issues of importance, especially if they are not being recognized enough.
Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works ?
I am still developing the Encased in a Timberbox project. I will continue research on the twenty largest fires in California history and finish making the accompanying images. For the Stories and Impressions component of the Encased project, I’m seeking personal stories that will become the impetus for future images.
From the end of January through March 2020, I’ll be an artist-in-residence at Albion College where I’ll be developing my In the Air project for a solo show in February. I’ll be adding two new photo-based components and a video installation.