Field Notes: Walk with Me

2/24/18

 

Walking along,

Don’t know what I will encounter.

I can anticipate, but not know.

I can expect and may receive.

I can grow or die.

 

This light, this heat, the air on my skin,

Touching you,

You are soft.

Is this moment forever?

No.

 

Look here, not there.

Reaching for you, but you are gone.

With you wherever you are.

Are you gone?

No.

 

Walk a little further.

Blister more.

Your heart is strong.

Mine is strong.

No.

 

Walk with me

Back in Black (and White)

1/13/18
2017 was an incredible and tumultuous year for me. I started a new and completely different chapter in my life. Everything in my personal life has changed beyond what I ever thought was possible, for the good mostly, but not without immense pain. I discovered dark truths about people I’d considered family for over a decade, and chose to be true to myself and to what I know is right.

I went into a bubble of isolation from most people and from my work for the past year just getting through the day-to-day and dealing with the grieving.

I’ve been in survival mode.

I never thought I could live through the loss I did last year, but I am trusting that love and truth will triumph in the end and I’m ready and to move forward in my life and in my work.

05-01 - Grasping_Gina DeGideo

o5/01 – Grasping ©Gina DeGideo

All year I’ve been looking at my unprocessed film and fresh packs of photo paper, knowing I need to get back, so it’s time for New Years Resolutions!

2018 Goals:

Finishing my Along the Way film processing and printing

Complete my writing and book for the project

Exhibit Along the Way as a solo show

Get back to blogging regularly

Process my new 4×5 film and keep shooting

Resolve Flex series printing

Down the Rabbit Hole…

9/20/15

"Found" ©Gina DeGideo

“Found” ©Gina DeGideo

Years ago, I made this photograph on a family day trip up to small rural town in northern Arizona for my nephew’s fourth birthday party. My son, along with a couple of his cousins and I, ventured down a pathway leading from the party for a quick walk. I carried my small point and shoot digital camera to take some snaps of the boys by the creek. I had remembered that down this path was also an amazing tree house my cousins and I had grown up climbing and playing in.

Just minutes into our hike on the trail, often used as a roadway for everyone in town to ride quads, jeeps, and dirt bikes, I stumbled upon this completely flattened and decomposing rabbit in the sand. The animal’s fascinating form, preservation, cleanliness, fluffiness, and unfortunate situation demanded my full attention. I responded to my found object by photographing it (how could I not) including my foot. Its perfect face and form make this one of my favorite photographs to date.

Then & Now – Gilbert, Arizona

9/13/15
Three years ago I graduated from my photography program at ASU and exhibited, for the first time, my thesis project Arid Zone Utopia in the show Click. The work was over a year in the making and was a heavily edited down group of suburban landscapes, from what I thought were unusually designed neighborhoods in Arizona. Of all of the images I shot, those from the Gilbert, Arizona locations worked best in my series, as I found their landscapes most contrasting from the natural desert.

As a result of that exhibition, I partnered with Art Intersection Gallery (of whom I had just finished an internship with at the time) to create a body of work from a family archive of prints and negatives on commission. The artwork and exhibition titled Revisiting the Photographs of Marvin Morrison was initially exhibited at Art Intersection in the summer of 2013, after a year of work into the project.

When Howard Morrison (son of Marvin Morrison and patron) and I first spoke about possibilities and scope of this project, we briefly mentioned a future possibility of a “then and now” show, since so many of my photographs are taken in the same locations as his father’s were, only 30-60 years apart.

Shifting Views Postcard Merge_DeGideo copy

The “then and now” of the project has finally taken shape as the exhibition Shifting Views, open now through October 31st at The Gallery at the Gilbert Historical Museum. The entire Morrison project, and nine more of my Gilbert Arid Zone Utopia images are on view, including three images never shown before. I believe the show takes an interesting look at the changing priorities and the booming expansion of this once modest farming town. If you are in the area, pay The Gallery a visit at 10 S. Gilbert Rd. Gilbert, AZ 85296.

Shifting Views Show Statement:
On exhibit, are works made throughout different periods of time, with different intentions. The similarities lie in that they were photographed in many of the same locations, 30 – 60 years apart from each other and both edited and printed by the same artist.

When I shot the landscape project Arid Zone Utopia, I was exploring and documenting many suburban neighborhoods throughout the state, but the Morrison Ranch and Agritopia areas were where I was most intrigued to photograph. At the time, being a self-admitted “desert rat”, I did not understand what these landscapes were in my desert world.

After having the fantastic opportunity to work with the Morrison family, sifting carefully through hundreds of images shot by Marvin Morrison, and listening to many family stories, I began to finally connect with the awkwardly beautiful place I had been investigating with my camera for so many years.

The result has been an unintentional collaboration between myself and the late Marvin Morrison, reflecting the changes this land has been through, and glimpse into the past and present.

– Gina DeGideo

A History of Fresh Food in the Desert

2/1/14

Kenneth and Cattle by Gina DeGideo, with photograph by Marvin Morrison

Kenneth and Cattle by Gina DeGideo, with photograph by Marvin Morrison

I am happy to be showing a portion of my work from the series Revisiting the Photographs of Marvin Morrison at Modified Arts in Phoenix, AZ. The exhibition, curated by Kimber Lanning, focuses on the history and evolution of growing food in the desolate landscape we live in. The exhibition, open now through February 15th, 2014, also features work from Heather Gill and from the extensive collection of Jeremy Rowe. Join us for the closing reception on Friday, February 7th during First Fridays!

Revisiting the Photographs of Marvin Morrison

8/19/13

Cotton Stomper, photograph by Marvin Morrison

Cotton Stomper, photograph by Marvin Morrison

My first solo exhibition and biggest show thus far opened last week at Art Intersection. One year in the making, the show featured 17 prints on the walls from scanned slides, negatives, and prints, with creative writing text below them. A hard cover handmade artist book, and a commemorative platinum/palladium print also sit together in a clamshell box set, on display.

DSC_4506

DSC_4535

The photographs are from a local farmer named Marvin Morrison, who passed away in 2007. His son, Howard, came to Art Intersection and to me looking to commission a project and exhibition based on the remaining photos from his father. In an ironic turn of events I found out that in my previous project Arid Zone Utopia I had actually been photographing in some of the exact places Marvin had been, only 60 years later.

When Howard brought the images to me I was struck at the unique stories I felt the images told. For a lifelong farmer who surely would’ve never considered himself a photographer or artist, there were some amazing images! They had a quiet and telling beauty to them. I felt a connection to the intimacy of many of them and decided this could definitely become something great.

I spent the next year gathering stories and memories from Marvin’s sons and wife, June, while learning all of the players in the family dynamic and getting to know the people individually. In doing so I also got to know Marvin, the man I would never meet. In these verbal descriptions of him, being in his lifelong home, and in the revelations of his photographs, I understood who he was.

...It's 5 am on a chilly Fall morning and the dew is just beginning to settle. Father and son plow ahead bailing 100lb packages of cut alfalfa, their machine shooting them out in perfect blocks. The two have been at it since the early morning hours. The son does his work and remains quiet; his shouting wouldn't be heard over the grumbling John Deere engine anyway. He knows his labor will be rewarded by his comrades in the barn later that day. He will rule as king of the Lego brick fort that the gang constructs when he returns with the goods, and it will be glorious...

…It’s 5 am on a chilly Fall morning and the dew is just beginning to settle. Father and son plow ahead bailing 100lb packages of cut alfalfa, their machine shooting them out in perfect blocks. The two have been at it since the early morning hours. The son does his work and remains quiet; his shouting wouldn’t be heard over the grumbling John Deere engine anyway. He knows his labor will be rewarded by his comrades in the barn later that day. He will rule as king of the Lego brick fort that the gang constructs when he returns with the goods, and it will be glorious…

To compliment the edited down images, I created captions based on family memories, and while sometimes channeling Marvin himself and putting myself in his shoes, based on what I’ve learned of him. The lines of text sit just slightly underneath the image and run as an accent to the pale-colored vintage feel of the prints made from his photographs.

The book is perhaps my favorite part of the project. For the past few years I’ve loved book-making and tried to use it in my work when it makes sense to. When looking at Marvin’s photos, I saw a distinct difference between more general farm-life pictures and between family-oriented photos. One of my favorite images is one of all of the women in the family wearing matching nightgowns, obviously homemade gifts from Grandma, and posing together for a picture on Christmas Eve.

Morrison Book-by Gina DeGideo

I knew I had to use these wonderful pictures in some way, which lead me to the reworked family photo album book. I wanted the book to be fun and also to be something that could be displayed in the gallery in a 3-dimensional way, so I chose the accordion style construction. I unified the many different image styles from different eras, from black and white to color, and printed them all digitally with a uniform sepia tonality. I’ve been dying to make an accordion book with handwritten photo captions (like you would see if you turned over an old photograph; yeah, when people still printed them!) on the back for some time now, and felt this was definitely the project to incorporate this into. June was the natural choice to illustrate the captions. Her fabulous cursive scribbles were done in pencil, scanned in, and digitally printed on the backs of the images. I love how this book has become a sort of unknowing collaboration between Marvin’s photos and his wife’s captions.

Morrison Opening 1

In the end, I am extremely happy with the artwork and so glad I had this unique opportunity to create something wonderful from someone else’s found photographs. I can now continue on with more of my personal projects, but I am so thankful for the experience and I’d like to think that Marvin likes it too 😉 .

Morrison Opening 2

Morrison Opening 3

The Memory vs. The Experience

5/27/12

I remember fragments of this day with family building the brick wall in our family’s front yard, 1993, Age 6.

If you are a photographer like me, you must get tired of the monotonous questions, “where is your camera?” at family functions and questions of if you can take pictures of peoples’ babies or weddings or birthday parties (no offense family and friends 🙂 ). Firstly, let me say that I do enjoy looking at old photographs and being able to create and imagine a sense of the world I was too young to remember, or from a time before my existence. Memories are things that are intrinsically tied to visual images and photographs. Perhaps I am an oddball photographer, but it seems to me that the human psyche relies much too heavily on this photographic form for memory recognition.

This cubby made the perfect hiding spot for toys, lemonade stand profits, and other important items throughout my childhood, 1993-2011. This photograph was taken 1 day after the forclosure of my family home.

I know as a photographer, that’s not what I should say. I believe people expect me to say the camera’s image is a holy form of reality, while in fact it can never even be that… reality. Simply, it is a reference to a particular reality; one in which only a mechanical box can interpret. While this “box” can be a magical tool with endless other benefits, I believe it cannot replace the human body/mind experience.

I much so prefer to live in the moment rather than to struggle to capture every detail on film. I aim to feel the breeze on my skin, to create a sensory memory of the place’s smell, and to see through my eye’s lens. There is something much more spiritual and simplistic about this way of life; a unique experience that cannot be confined or recreated to reflect one 2-D perspective.

In the end will we have our memories, or the tangible objects to represent them?

Angela Ellsworth at Lisa Sette Gallery

12/28/11
Over the weekend I visited Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. This quaint gallery space lies in the heart of the Art District of Scottsdale. As I walked up I immediately saw the bright and colorful images filling the wall space and the odd stand-alone objects viewable through the glass walls enclosing the gallery. The gallery was light and airy. The beautiful off-white aged wood floors complimented the work’s contents nicely. The show on display through December 31, 2011 is the work of contemporary interdisciplinary artist Angela Ellsworth. The exhibition title is they may appear alone, in lines, or in clusters.

Ellsworth is an accomplished artist in the fields of installation, drawing, and performance. Currently she is exploring her cultural and religious background in her work the Plural Wife Project. Ellsworth recreates the emotions and lives of women in her Mormon ancestry by focusing on a series of multimedia pieces revolving around the life of her great, great grandfather’s 9 wives and their experiences. As a child, Ellsworth was raised in the Mormon lifestyle in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her great, grandfather was the 5th prophet and the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and practiced plural marriage. Although the Mormon Church no longer endorses Polygamy, it is rooted in the religion’s history and was a way of life for some members in previous generations.

On display at Lisa Sette Gallery

When I entered the gallery, Ellsworth’s Seer Bonnets and c-prints immediately reminded me of the Warren Jeff’s fiasco made public in 2007 and the chaos surrounding the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints Church. The photographs that hung on the walls featured the repeating image of a woman (Angela Ellsworth) in a light pink dress and bonnet reaching from what appears to be the heavens. She is delivered as a romanticized version of how a typical FLDS plural wife would appear in some specific sects of the religion. Her flowing drapery against the cloudy backdrop seems somewhat ridiculous, yet communicates a dramatic iconic representation of the Virgin Mary. The woman’s shadow on the backdrop enforces the idea that this is unreal. The idea of this set-up prop is again re-enforced on the North gallery wall where Ellsworth backs out of the shot to reveal the foot pedals and podium she stands on for the photograph.

"Seer Bonnet" on display at Lisa Sette Gallery

The most striking visual pieces were the Seer Bonnets generously spaced throughout the room. The 3-dimensional objects were exquisite! Their gorgeous pearl embellishments drew me in for further investigation. Intricate spiral designs and floral patterns adorn each unique headdress. Excessively long pearl-lined straps dangled from the bonnets to the floor. An unexpected twist to the beautiful bonnets, are the sharp silver pins lining the undersides of the garment. The artists used pearl-tipped corsage pins for this result. Lisa Sette Gallery describes Ellsworth’s objectives in these pieces as being intentionally individualized, while unexpected and confronting at the same time, but I see something much deeper. These bonnets evoked a sense of severe pain when I viewed them. For me, the bonnets are a powerful statement of Ellsworth’s view on the immense pain and pressure that would have been put on the wearer’s of these hats, the wives. Perhaps this is also revealing an idea of concealing true torture with pretty clothing.

The method by which Ellsworth creates these unique bonnets exemplifies the domestic lifestyles of the woman she is examining. The headwear is displayed on posts of varying human heights scattered through the space. Their positions were set as they would be worn; only their bills were downward-facing. This arrangement creates a representation of actual people being seen, rather than just floating bonnets in space. The repeating shape and color emphasize similarity and togetherness. Ellsworth also uses the bonnets’ straps to make relationships between pieces. Two bonnets can be seen together. A slightly lower height bonnet is positioned looking upward towards its taller counterpart, while the linen straps are connected to one another. This engagement reminded me of a mother-child interaction, but in the context of the work, this may also serve as a “sister wife” bond. The bonnets are attractive and command the attention of the viewer within the space.

Further back in a small corridor of the gallery a video of the angelic woman from the photographs is played. In slow motion she poses and moves through the space, taking on different personas with each gaze. She subtly emulates different characters and emotions, from godly and strong, to seductive, to scared and lost; all of these identities portrayed in successive moments of film. She appears to be falling as well in some seconds of the looped clip. Here Ellsworth conveys the emotional uncertainty and instability these women must have faced. An odd camera shot moves right past the woman, through the fabric of her shawl, fully zooming onto the painted background. Through all of these emotions, the woman is ultimately looked right past as if invisible. This begins to address issues of gender and power within the religion.

My analysis of this show was in part influenced by some of the other work of Angela Ellsworth which I had only seen small parts of, but most of it was visual. The white walls, bright lights, open spacing, and facial expressions presented in every direction are void of any explainable emotion. An eerie sense of conformity and disillusion is felt in the space. With no artist statement to be found, interpretations are mostly left to the viewer. My conversation with a gallery worker led to the discovery that the color photographs on the walls were stills from a performance piece Ellsworth did this year. He also let me know that another part of the project is still on display at the Phoenix art museum, which I will gladly visit in person as soon as possible.

This work is embedded in the past, but remains relevant. It can relate activities and emotions of the current FLDS wives and their lifestyles to others outside of the faith. Plural marriages and their mystery have been a hot topic for the past few years. With events like the Warren Jeffs trial and popular reality shows like Sister Wives popping up, this work adds as an essential layer to the conversation. People are judgmental of these lifestyles, but are still curious of their dynamics. Angela Ellsworth’s creativity in bringing these stories to life and speaking for the women who can’t is a fascinating way to re-discover her ancestry and to address women’s issues.

For videos of live performances in the Plural Wives Project, please visit Angela Ellsworth’s website: http://aellsworth.com/works/solo_sisterwives.html

Find Lisa Sette’s information to go see the show IN PERSON: http://www.lisasettegallery.com/a-ellsworth.htm

Join me at the Phoenix Art Museum for more on this project: http://www.phxart.org/exhibition/Campbell-Ellsworth.php

Steal Away…

A package arrived at my doorstep last week addressed to someone else. I left it on the doorstep for UPS to come back to pick up. When I came outside this morning the package was gone, but 2 small bubble-wrapped objects were left on my front porch.

I unraveled the gifts to see why they were left behind and discovered an old framed photograph and a small funeral service card. The thief did not leave the pictures because they were useless to him, because he even took the worthless cardboard box. It actually appeared that the person had opened the package and brought only the photos back.

It seems that the importance of photographs on the human psyche is immeasurable. It is an odd thought to me that someone who is stealing your valuables decides it is just not right to take your personal memories as well. A personal image can evoke more emotion than words could ever and this is a very powerful tool to have. Perhaps the haunting title of the holy card passage Steal Away also had a little something to do with the objects return!