From the Mary Series: taken in Dorloo, New York, May 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The Menna Series
I printed this series on a deep-sea scallop shell that began life somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean between The Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Canada--where I found it--and West Wales, where my friend, the Welsh poet Menna Elfyn, lives and writes. I took the photo of Menna on a hike we made together in 2005, up to the summit of Carningli--the Hill of Angels--in the Preseli Hills of Northern Pembrokeshire. It was a grey day of wind and rain, and clouds sweeping in off the sea.
The installation--in a sunny inlet swamped by sea grass fronds--which I created in Massachusetts in summer, 2010, brings the pan-Atlantic process full circle. Like Menna's poetry, which is often fueled by her perpetual travels across the ocean, these images of her harvest the depths and reveal them on the incoming tide. Here is a bit from her poem "Rhyddfraint Pentywyn," or in English, "Pendine Sands"
Here you can learn
that we don't so much learn how to live
as not to give
one inch to death
lest the high tide overtake us.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Overbrook Series
Overbrook is the name of a former mental hospital in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, set on over 90 acres of hillside parkland. It opened in 1896 and closed a hundred years later, during the 1990s. Essex County originally planned to sell the land for housing development--just what Essex County needed: more houses--but has now set it aside as open space for a county park.
I grew up in the shadow of Overbrook. When I was a kid there were two horns that sounded in Verona--my town, neighboring Cedar Grove--that could be heard townwide. One was the firehouse siren, the other was the Overbrook siren, hoarser and higher-pitched, which would be sounded when someone "escaped" from the hospital. One of my earliest memories is of a neighbor, a heavy white man, racing down our street chasing a young black man, shouting to me--the only witness, a little girl of 5 or 6--to call the police. "He's an escapee," the neighbor shouted, over and over. What I remember is their gait: the loping, easy run of the chased, and the cramped, bicycle-like pumping of the chaser. One was Elmer Fudd. The other, Bugs Bunny.
The Overbrook buildings have been decaying and crumbling earthwards for a decade. One winter evening, late in 2008, I found a pile of slate roof tiles next to a dumpster, pried from a recently razed house. I took several armfuls, on which I've printed images of Overbrook's dead, dying, and neglected trees. Overbrook is its trees. Weeping beeches, copper beeches, oaks, evergreens: immense and old, grotesquely gnarled sometimes, leafing out each spring almost against their wills.
The buildings and trees are contemporaries, and both will be gone soon. Parks employ nature by creating it fresh. The county park will start over again with a clean slate. In the meantime, these images depict partners in memorial that have stood together for 100 years.