For the exhibition Reflections: Artful perspectives on the St. Johns River at the Cummer Musem of Art and Gardens, 2015
In the summer of 2014, The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens invited 10 artists to re-interpret river themed works from their collection for an exhibit entitled Reflections: Artful Perspectives on the St. Johns River. The exhibit opened on February 21. I chose to create a series of 5 photographs, derivative work from Streaming South and some other earlier images, that address the confluence of man and nature. The title of my exhibit is Intersections.
The painting that was assigned to me was “Osprey Nest, Silversmith Creek” by Joseph Jeffers Dodge. Dodge was trained as an art historian and museum administrator at Harvard University before accepting his first job as curator of the Hyde Collection in Glen Falls, New York. At the same time, he began actively painting and exhibiting his work. In 1962, Dodge was invited to take the director’s position at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, a job he held for ten years before making a full-time commitment to painting.
Joseph Jeffers Dodge completed Osprey Nest, Silversmith Creek in 1995 towards the end of his career. It is a view from his home and studio window and supports his fascination with the Florida landscape and the scenery surrounding his residence. I found the painting particularly soothing and minimal while imparting a strong sense of symbolism about our lives and its relation to nature. Upon reading more about Dodge’s work and this painting in particular, I became intrigued with this composition and the main elements within: osprey nest, large tree, three smaller trees, contrails, and the hot air balloon. I was also curious about the cropping at the horizon and removal of the visual context from a foreground defining the creek. Dodge was also an avid photographer and I suspect he may be using a photographic technique to place emphasis on the main visual elements.
I have been exploring local creeks and waterways for some time and recently began photographing from a kayak. My approach to this project was not to try to duplicate Dodge’s painting, but to establish my own set of symbolic visual elements from existing images based on a theme that is constantly running through my work – the intersection of man’s presence and nature. We can seek places of solitude and unspoiled wildness, but rarely can we place ourselves in an environment devoid of the influence of man. This is how it is, and we can find ourselves revolted, indifferent, or stimulated by what is there. Surprisingly, I found many of Dodge’s symbols in my images: dominant trees, birds and nests, contrails, and man-made objects. I did choose to include a strong reference to the reflection of the water or flowing grasses, and I placed these “reflections” on a common horizon that runs through each displayed image.
My dialog continues as our natural world becomes increasingly altered, constructed, and controlled. Nature always offers a sublime beauty; ever-present and visible to those who are willing to see. The intersection is everywhere, my job is to record and document what I observe.
At the The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 2015.