A Geography of Change
A Geography of Change
Geography is the study of the relationships between people and their environment. I’ve always been fascinated by the urban landscape. Growing up in Chicago my father felt that a great family outing was one that centered around checking out what was new in the city, be it new buildings or new public art downtown. In grad school I became fascinated by the stories that could be read in the landscape, the stories of migration told through the Greek revival architecture that spread from New England west along the Ohio River and the architecture of the south that moved up along the Mississippi River from New Orleans. I worked for a time for the Mass Historical Commission tracing settlements in Plymouth and Bristol County that grew in response to the Industrial Revolution.
As my life moved away from academia that fascination was put on hold as I began finding my way as an artist. And it wasn’t until I started, out of curiosity, researching the historical geography of Western Ave. that my love of the urban landscape and my art began to merge. I knew that I wanted, in some way, to tell the story of the richness and complexity of the urban landscape, however I wasn’t quite sure just how I could tell that story as a visual artist. I tried using maps and found objects in assemblage but was unsatisfied with the result. And then, one day, at a flea market, I found a massive Latin dictionary published in 1894 that seemed fraught with possibilities. And shortly after I found a book of photographs of great houses in Britain.
I was strongly drawn to the work of my neighbor Elizabeth Alexander, whose cutpaper work became the inspiration for my own. I had been doing paper collage for years, always hidden in sketch books and journals but never for public consumption, the acquisition of the Latin dictionary and the great houses of Britain began my exploration of the possibilities of paper and glue. The earliest of the landscape collages were in black and white, constructed from engravings and photographs found in 19th century books and magazines and they moved into color when I found the work of Canaletto and his amazing paintings of Venice. Somehow pages from the Latin dictionary have served wonderfully as a ‘ground’ divorcing the collages from the literal landscape. I view the work as grand compositional exercises, ignoring the conventions that govern the representation of landscape. In my landscapes size does not diminish with distance, perspective changes on a whim, and complexity is embraced.
I hesitate to assign titles, rather than imposing the story that I find in the work, I want the viewer to engage without preconceptions imposed by my nomenclature. It has been gratifying to watch viewers almost dive into the work and come back to it, finding something new with each encounter. I am hoping to encourage an exploration of the work, that might, just might translate to creating curiosity about the evolution of the landscape in Lowell. However, because maintaining an inventory of untitled work can be rather confusing, I have chosen to assign random snippets of quotes from Kerouac as titles. A technique used before in an collaborative exhibit when the On the Road scroll came here the first time I thought it would be appropriate to reintroduce in honor of the centenary year of his birth.