Revisiting my childhood captivity in a religious cult and my escape as a young adult, I re-frame the established American narrative in the context of slavery. Combining my medium of contemporary printmaking with an ongoing series of interactive online content and spoken word performance, I explore themes of material culture and social constructs that mask the pervasive and insidious nature of patriarchy, corporatocracy, white privilege, and institutional racism.
The struggle to break free from my childhood captivity in a religious cult informed my convictions about the world and continues to drive my creative exploration. To communicate those convictions, I push the mediums of literature and storytelling, honoring those ancient traditions while presenting them in an accessible participatory format. Just as I had to sift, dig, search, obsess to uncover the truth as if gradually unrolling an ancient scroll to reveal more and more of my story, the virtual scroll becomes a proxy for that first-hand experience.
My work is to re-frame the narrative around historical artifacts and to put modern imagery into the context of history. Through my photography and my medium of photo composition and contemporary printmaking, I ask: "respice verum," look back at the truth.
So much of American history can be found in sifting and digging through the story of Maryland. I forge across the Maryland landscape to find evidence of cultures long discarded and white-washed by history. Through the camera lens, I investigate nature, land, architecture, relics and material culture. With these images I seek to connect and integrate them within a composition that transcends time, space, history and popular beliefs.
On the grounds of Hampton Plantation, we can be physically and mentally immersed in the true story of our country. If we can open our eyes, we can feel the truth wash over us when we pass through the mansion's opulent doors. We can sense deeply the emptiness of the slave-holding Ridgelys' ill-gotten ephemera.
Through the camera lens I embarked on a journey of awakening, from birds, to insects, to the tiniest details of the forest floor as I sought to answer the mysterious call of fields, forests, oceans, and rivers. I slowly came to understand that I was called by plea echoing from forgotten people and whitewashed history: to know the ground on which we walk.
My journey could be compared to a process of becoming bi-lingual: translating in real time the visual language of a world encoded in whitewash back into the language of truth that lies beneath. I live at the iron forges where people were enslaved, just across the river from people enslaved on a tobacco plantation. In the morning I drive to my office where the enslaved once labored on the Canton Plantation. As I spend more and more time communing with these artifacts, they give up more and more of their secrets, like the iron pieces I find around the crumbling puddling furnace on the Gunpowder. Every detail is a new nuance we have now learned to interpret.
In my work as an artist I have progressed from an exploration of nature to an understanding of anthropology as our part of natural history, in which knowing the ground on which we walk means knowing what remnants of our human past lie under the forest canopy, knowing what the fields, oceans and rivers remember. I have discovered the lives of enslaved people and that this is sacred ground.
Pushing the boundaries of printmaking, I am constantly developing new ways to size, manipulate, layer, and blend my photos in Adobe Photoshop to create depth, perspective, texture and lighting similar to that of classical mediums. I developed a process that I refer to as contemporary printmaking. Every element in my compositions, from the tiniest flowers to the contour of the landscape, is a photograph--sometimes 40 or more individual photographs--that I took, prepared and positioned on a digital canvas. The physical artwork is a pigment ink print on a fine art watercolor rag.
My collection of thousands of images I've taken represents thousands of moments across time and space as I traveled in search of answers I believed I would find only far outside of human constructs. As my exploration progressed, it wasn't enough for me to capture reality; I was compelled to interpret it. Even as I was processing a massive volume of new information about the world and aggregating it toward my own survival, I began aggregating the camera's snapshots of reality to represent a new reality that would transcend the time and space in which I felt myself limited.
To deconstruct one of my photo compositions is to unearth the artifacts of my past. Close examination of these artworks in my chosen medium is a sort of archaeological dig. Under the surface are discoveries that can inform our view of those who experience American society as a set of constructs designed to keep them relegated to the margins.