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kirk  thompson
ordinary nature

october 27 to december 6
2003

   
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artist's statement

 

Ordinary Nature  Through these photographs, I invite the viewer to journey with me into the world of Ordinary Nature. I was delighted when a critic said Iíd ďovercome the masculine impulse to make nature heroic.Ē Iíve deliberately sidestepped the paths that lead to Spectacular and Monumental Nature. Iíve also avoided the New Topographersí landscape of environmental degradation. Ordinary Nature is in between: nearer than the wilderness, but still protected from suburbs and worse (oil fields, atomic sites, and so forth).

Iíve been gathering images in the accessible sphere that lies near to home in the parks, paths, and nature sanctuaries of the San Francisco Bay Area. Almost always marked by human modifications, this realm contains a mixture of nature and artifice: earth, air, light, and water; but also paths, benches, roads, and telephone poles. This environment probably suffers human contacts more than it enjoys them, but it is never quite despoiled. Its small beauties and excitements tend to be gentle and contemplative, rather than overtly striking.

On walks in this area with a small camera, Iíve asked if any visual surprises,  any qualified beauty or mild  visual excitement,  might appear on the path ahead.  If  the photographer and viewer can follow this path together, then the individual images might come together as a continuous series of glimpses along the way. If the viewer will follow this path with me, the images might merge into a continuous series of glimpses along the way.

Separate paths  In the broader context of my photography, these images - romantic, pictorial, and idealized - are half of a whole. Iím not only, or even primarily, a landscape photographer. Iíve also been making images of an Inner City, an urban world of debris, security fences, and gridlock, all in a state of decay that mirrors our larger political, economic, and environmental condition. Together these two bodies of work comprise a worldview. But here I ask the viewer to follow only one of these forking paths, into a quiet, murmuring world that embraces us, at least intermittently, in harmony and regeneration.

 

 

 

 

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Miniature 'watercolors'  Though most of these prints are available in larger sizes, here Iíve printed them consistently as a set of pastel miniatures on large sheets of archival watercolor paper. I found this particularly satisfying. Only after coming to think of them as Ďmy watercolorsí did I remember that watercolors were my first experience of art. An uncle, stationed in England during World War II, was able to send home some small watercolor landscapes, so gentle that a censor apparently thought they were imaginary, or at least did not reveal a specific location.  (In the same sense, I donít think of my photographs as representing particular places.) Before I saw these watercolors, Iíd accepted pictures without reflection: the illustrations in, for example, my Babar book were Babar and Celeste, not the creations of an artist. Only on seeing watercolors by a familiar uncle did I grasp the ideas of an artist and his art.

Four larger images  For variety, Iíve also included in this show four larger and more recent images belonging to neither of the two portfolios mentioned above.  They may be pointing in a new direction.

Kirk Thompson
October 2003

 

 

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