Barbara Brown

Desire for Arcadia: Field Notes from an Art Practice

May 3 – 27, 2018

“Working from my everyday experiences, I create images and ephemeral constructions; I juxtapose nature with human touch, using imagery to wonder just how it all goes together. Along the way I have discovered a way of being in the world that has deepened my days and offers me a way to consider my place in the world: through the lens of a camera. My aim is to construct images that serve to enhance memory and spark the senses.

Our cultural mythology, fairy tales and folklore tell how civilization carved a place in the middle of the wil-derness. Human culture continues to hold a subliminal fear of dark places, places beyond what we know in the civilized or humanized world. The spaces created in my photographs imagines a place within the ver-dant world. More than nostalgic longing for days gone by, these images reflect an attempt to inhabit the world in a way that is almost unavailable to contemporary urban dwellers, yet which I have been able to create for myself in my small city garden.

The invitation of these images is to gaze from inside the world of green and growing plants, flowers, trees and shrubs, to inhabit a forgotten place. Gone is the horizon line; without this orienting feature the land-scape is within the viewer. One can approach and inhabit these landscapes on a visceral level, experiencing and knowing them through a bodily association informed by touch. At first glance this could be Arcadia (life lived naturally, uncorrupted by civilization, before civilization), with no evidence of a civilizing or human presence. Yet these images evidence human touch; they are gathered, arranged and composed.

This body of work offers a view of an inhabited place inspired by the forest, the meadow and the garden; a place not unfamiliar but just beyond the reach of a city-dweller’s fingertips. Destined for the compost pile, all the plants depicted here have been cut, plucked and severed. This is an image of temporal life, caught by the camera, yet on a trajectory of decline. The photograph captures moments on this timeline, and gives us a landing place in a constantly moving and changing world.

This series of photographs can be seen as a memento mori, reminding us of our ultimate destiny. Contem-plate if you will, the fragile, time-limited nature of life, found in the detritus of my garden.” Barbara Brown, March 2017