Mountain's Memory

2015, silkscreen on sheer fabric, thread, grommets, cardboard, steel stand, custom hardware, 40" x 60" x 44"

Theories of the sublime have influenced my work, from Greek philosophers, Enlightenment-era essayists, and contemporary cultural critics like Derrick Jensen and Rebecca Solnit. In his 1757 essay, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, Edmund Burke’s criteria for sublimity are astonishment, obscurity, vastness, infinity, terror, and power- viewable at a safe and removed distance. I uncover these elements in the industrial scale of man-made forms and accumulations that operate as landscape.

In representations of the sublime in nature, I imagine the environment as the protagonist in the struggle with man. This resonates today as the natural systems that support life on Earth are being overpowered in favor of human interests. Camouflaged in symbols of American power and identity, I use beauty and the sublime as seductive elements of Vanitas, raising questions of an existential nature.

Aerial reconnaissance and defensive camouflage were my points of departure for this work. I have had a long fascination with the architectural-scale decoys and simulated landscapes created from hand-made netting to shield factories and military build-ups from aerial photography during WWII. I wanted to reconsider these strategies in the context of the contemporary technology and access to information the average person has today.

During the middle 19th Century extensive geological surveys were conducted by the newly formed USGS. The vast new western territories were mapped and combed for mineral resources. Topographic maps were created from these surveys, which are still referenced today. Google Earth uses this topographic data to drape their aerial photography of the surface of the earth.

In the years since the original surveys, the surface of the earth has been altered by accumulative and reductive human activity, changing the landforms. The 10,000 ft peaks near Cripple Creek, CO are one of many sites of change- where the Google image data and the USGS topographic data do not align. The result is my current site of investigation: a mysterious terraced crater draped over the ghost mass of former mountains. The landscape is surreal, and can be navigated in street view.