October 27, 2006
This evening I heard photographer Holly Lynton speak about her current show Solid Ground. We happen to work with the same printer (Ben Diep at ColorSpace Imaging on 20th Street) so I had seen some of her images a few months ago around the print studio before I knew anything about the show. They are luminous prints, each one exotic and yet familiar. Taken together they put the viewer in a distinctly feminine and mysterious dreamworld full of blossoming life but also full of hidden dangers and even death. Looking at the images and having heard they had all been taken in the artist’s backyard, I formulated what I thought was a strong theory about the motivation behind the work. I was certain that the artist was trying to show us a child’s perspective where the back yard is indeed the entire world. The low angles, tight crops, short focus and subject matter all seemed to confirm my theory.
For me the work recalled the deep forest I remember behind an apartment that was our home for about a year in the 70’s. I was 5 then and would go exploring with my 3 year old brother. Each journey like all good adventures was fraught with giddy joy and perceived danger. Would there be trees to climb, wild blackberries, or kidnappers and snakes? The trips often ended with us running full tilt, simultaneously laughing and yelling at the top of our lungs, back home.
A few years ago I returned looking for the forest and was puzzled to find only a grouping of tightly bunched thin trees. Convinced the forest must have been leveled I looked back at old photographs to find the scene virtually unchanged, a small stand of trees behind a parking lot ... and yet even with irrefutable proof, it is hard to resolve the memory of the deep dark forest dimly illuminated by occasional shafts of light.... endless.
All this is a roundabout way of saying I had convinced myself I knew what the artist had intended... and of course I was totally wrong. In her talk this evening she said the series had been inspired by a trip to Tanzania shortly after September 11th. In Africa she found death and beauty lurking all around in a real and visceral way. The unresolved feelings the trip inspired, as well as returning during a time when imagined boogiemen were being touted daily led her into her backyard searching for the kind of beauty and danger she experienced in Africa... and to this project...
And yet like that stand of trees, even knowing the truth, it is hard to resolve my original conception of the project. Both narratives remain in my head and both seem equally true.