Monday, December 14, 2015

Journal

I arrived at the Rensing Center unsure of exactly what I would find but with the knowledge that I was going to spend the next 6 weeks of my life walking in the woods and climbing hills and documenting it in an illustrated journal.

Below are a few excerpts from my stay.

Journal, Day 1.

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Every day started with a nude self portrait taken from each of four angles. The purpose of these self portraits is to document what, if any, visible physical changes my body undergoes during my stay in the woods.
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Following the self portraits in an exploration into the woods.

The following are a few samples of large format portraits of waterfalls in upstate South Carolina.

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Lucia Rollow

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Getting Lost

My photographic work is, among other factors, reliant on the weather conditions. Upon my arrival to Rensing, I was greeted with a very warm welcome and a record setting amount of rain. Often inspired directly by the quality of light, the weather threw me for a bit of a loop. I was anxious to get out and explore my new Southern surroundings, but the extremely wet weather insisted that I slow down and take a different approach. My first few days were filled with thrift stores visits, reading in libraries, and researching the nearby area to get my bearings.


I began some collage work and in between the drizzle and all-out downpours, I decided the thing to do (if I wanted to photograph) was to embrace the gray skies. I donned my waterproof gear and ventured out – each day wandering in a new direction. The nearby mountains were an irresistible draw, particularly with the remarkable abundance of creeks, streams, and waterfalls tucked within them. Almost everyday, I hiked with orange, yellow, and red leaves drifting down around me. On several occasions, I stood alone among the trees, the rain announcing itself with slight crackling as it hit the leaves on the ground. In those moments of stillness, it sounded as if the earth was coming alive and tiny creatures would soon emerge. It was magical.


I often begin to understand a place by looking for photographs to make within it. At Rensing, I particularly valued the time I spent outside roaming the nearby towns, state parks, and forests. I made some photographs on my hikes, but maybe more importantly, had the time to be alone with my thoughts, and not feel limited by my all too normal “what do I need to check of the list?” mentality. Each day spent examining the landscape was an important time for reflection. It was quite a privilege to, on any given day, be able to hike for hours, rarely encounter other people on the trails, and unplug from screens. Some days I ‘found” many photographs among the natural and manmade landscapes, while others I was still looking as the daylight departed. I set a personal goal to be able to relax more into the ups and downs of my practice.


During my residency, I was compelled to wander based on a town’s unusual name, a feature of the regional landscape, and/or sometimes the light in the distance just seemed worth chasing. I brought along a copy of Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost and thought a lot about how feeling lost relates to how I make work. The book was the perfect companion as I reflected on how I engage with, and creatively respond to new places. Between google maps, my rental car’s “never lost” GPS, and trails maps, physically, I was (or could be) relatively located at any given moment. Each time I go in search of an image, I don’t know what I am looking for until it’s upon me – and even then, more often than not, it eludes me. In this way, as the days passed, I could feel utterly lost, unable to “find” a compelling image. Of course, this then made it all the more exciting when I “found” one. I noticed that my feelings about the unknown fluctuated between excitement, disappointment, wonder, and fear – and that often I experienced these all of these within moments of each other (or simultaneously). My favorite days were the ones that where I was a little bit lost and found, both physically and mentally. I now look forward to revisiting these experiences, as I edit my new collection of photographs.


Beyond my photography, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to engage in more tactile art making at Rensing. I explored my interest in mixed media and collage. I also had the opportunity to play with natural inks and make collages with the various paper ephemera (postcards, books, etc.) that I collected along my nearby adventures in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. I very much enjoyed making “maps” of natural materials collected in the woods. (Thank you Ellen for sharing a wonderful technique that was new for me and also nostalgic to the wax paper leaf collages I made as a child.) In the final days of my residency, I took several hikes, looking more closely at the details of the natural landscape than I had previously. I frequently found myself on my hands and knees scanning the leaves, dirt, rocks, for items to collect for my nature collages. Sometimes a particular leaf would catch my interest, the lichen curled around a branch, or the gleaming mica. I selected items that resonated with me and later reexamined them as I archived them within layers of silk and natural glue. I plan to experiment more with this process of recording place through collage both at home and with future travels.

Rensing provided quite the contrast to my typical California experience of fall. With the season changing, for as much as I got out to explore, it was the ideal time go inward with my practice. Actively make, yes, but an equally important time to reflect. I loved being able to observing the subtle changes of the landscape day-to-day, leaves changing, and the days growing shorter. With slowing down, I paid more attention to visual world around me and also the sounds - the drifting chimes of the goats’ bells, cows mooing, the roar of waterfalls, raindrops falling on the roof, and (on the dry days) the crunching of leaves under my feet. It was such a pleasure to get to hike (in rain and some shine) nearly everyday, be alone with my thoughts for hours on end, and redefine “what feels productive?” I appreciate all the time I had to photograph, read, play with materials, listen to podcasts, practice yoga, hike, and for all the conversations has over a glass of wine or while sharing meal in such a special place. I am especially grateful to Ellen, Evelyn, Katie, and the rest of the crew, who generously shared their love of land, creative space, and the community they have cultivated at Rensing.