I announced in the end of August that I was creating a shift in my body of work, and I am so happy to have finished “Rebirth of the Business District”, the first artwork of this new period. It is a piece of imaginative realism comprised of 19 different photos I took from 2012 to the present, at 13 different locations across Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Although I do not show human figures in my work, my representation of birds and insects with human expressions and in human interactions is invitation to see ourselves reflected in nature.
But there is one way in which humans are very different from the rest of nature. In the delicate relationship between us and our environment, we are the ones who can act intentionally--nature has its own laws, and it has no choice but to obey them. That puts the onus on us to listen to scientists and manage our impact on this planet and its resources accordingly. Nature cannot negotiate or compromise to save us.
For a time, nature may waste away because of us, and that would be a sad, sad world to live in. But nature is more than just things like rivers, forests, fields, birds, and butterflies that we usually think of in that context. There are those other elements of nature that often get left out of that conversation: Earth's geology, its tectonic plates, molten lava, the immense power of the ocean waves, the sun, the moon, and the atmosphere. If we do not treat the Earth as sacred, it may be nature with its immutable laws that goes on without us, reclaiming what we stripped from it.
In my new work, humans are not only absent, but noticeably absent. That is what this imagery represents: nature's renaissance after we have removed ourselves from it. Looming in the background is the hulking shipwreck of everything we pretended was most important when proof to the contrary was right in front of us.
Some other tidbits about this piece:
The idea for this composition had actually been brewing in my brain for about the past year. The building in the picture is where I work my day job as a director for a Baltimore-based software company. It is an old factory converted to office space, surrounded by a thriving waterfront community of condos, stores, and restaurants with the water just a leisurely stroll away. Everywhere in this area you can see evidence of Baltimore's history as a major port city. Last Fall, I took a photo of a mushroom that was growing next to the sidewalk down the street from the building. At the time, the structure looming behind this bit of urban nature made me think, "What if there was some catastrophic geological or weather event and the waterfront came all the way up to the building?" A year later I used that photo to create "Rebirth of the Business District".
The white and black birds rising up with their long legs dangling behind them are called American avocets. I took their picture in 2012 on a visit to Poplar Island. This island was rapidly disappearing into the Chesapeake Bay until the 1990's, when it was decided that sediment dredged from the shipping channels leading to and from the Baltimore harbor could be used to build the island habitat back up again. These avocets, whom I drove over two hours to visit, have a home again because of the center of industry where I work every day, and those two locations come together in this artwork.