'Stars' explores my desire to find some balance between a relationship with the wild places of my youth and a pervasive sense of disconnectedness from the natural world.
The Western landscape tradition embodies a pairing that James Elkins calls ‘the subject-object relationship’. Typified by the ‘scenic viewpoint’ or tourist panoramic overlook, we gaze, often through binoculars or telescopes, at wide vistas and dramatic seascapes, and are awed and overwhelmed. But this landscape experience often alienates the viewer from the scene and, just as the landscape itself becomes an object, a separation arises between them.
Today, the majority of people live in urban or semi-urban environments, experiencing the landscape from a distanced position mediated through technology and various media. From this viewpoint the notion of the landscape in all its sensuous materiality, our being within it rather than outside it, seems beyond reach.
Stars, 2014-2015 addresses this distancing by drawing the viewer right into the heart of a forest which still holds mystery, and offers the potential for discovery and exploration. The series considers the fragility of our relationship with the natural world, and the temporal and finite nature of landscape as a human construct.
Mature and ancient forest landscapes are interposed with images captured by the Hubble Telescope of the Milky Way, Omega Centauri, the Norma Galaxy and embryonic stars in the Nebula NGC 346. Each image links forest landscapes with the intangible and unknown universe, creating a juxtaposition that reflects my personal experiences of the forest—its physicality and tactility set against a profound and fundamental otherness, an alienation that separates us from a truly immersive relationship with the natural world.
(Source material credit: STScI/Hubble and NASA.)