Some Observations on Movements of the Earth, 2014 - invites one to read movements of the earth. Implicit within the work is a call to shape our lives in dialogue with the dynamic changes of the living environment. The project records phenomena that form within a geological time-frame, as well as faster processes such as earthquakes, monsoons, landslides, forest fires and coastal erosion. In the midst of the Anthropocene, this record asks that we consider living proactively in tune with the environment, respecting the risks it presents.
Phenomena that shape the land can happen off stage. What one is left with to contemplate is its aftermath—carved canyons, strewn boulders, desert washes that leave tangled debris behind. Photographs within this series are grouped and titled according to the phenomena that shaped them, such as Rockfalls and River Canyons, and The Desert Wash. The photographs within the series are treated with visual devices, offered so we may read and interpret them. Hopefully entangled within this winding series is encouragement to hear the echo of call and response that is our relationship with the living environment. This echo leads to the question, How can we listen and respond to the language of the land?
Some Observations on Movements of the Earth, 2014 - includes:
Native Fruit Cairns and Offerings, The Big Island, Hawaii
Rockfalls and River Canyons Yosemite and Kings Canyon, California
Rainforests and Redwoods
Rewilding the Elwah, Washington State, Olympic National Park
Glacial Retreat Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska
Petrified Forest, Arizona
Nurse Plants, Sonoran Desert, Arizona
Rockfalls and River Canyons, Zion National Park, Utah
Rapid Change within the Living Environment, 2017-2019
Tubbs Fire, October 9, 2017 Coffey Park Neighborhood, Santa Rosa, California, Photographed December 27, 2017
Debris Flow February 16, 2017, San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena, California, Photographed June 8, 2017
Hurricane Harvey, August 25, 2017, Port Arthur, Texas, Photographed September 17, 2017
Hurricane Irma, September 10, 2017 Key Largo, Florida, Photographed September 29, 2017
Camp Fire, November 8, 2018, Paradise, California, Photographed May 30, 2019
Chimney Tops 2 Fire, November 23, 2016, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, Re-growth Photographed June 23, 2017
Hurricanes Irma and Maria, September 2017, El Yunque National Park, Puerto Rico Canopy Regeneration photographed July 2019 (Looking up through the canopy)
Isabela, Puerto Rico, Fossilized Sand Dunes and Dune Restoration, Photographed July 2019
Native Fruit Cairns and Offerings
The Big Island, Hawaii
I spent February 2015 visiting lava flows, the steaming caldera of Kilauea (home
of the fire Goddess Pele), and the observatory at the peak of Mauna Kea (home of Pele’s sister, the snow goddess, Poli’ahu). I spent time examining the ways in which geology gives rise to cultural practices, and the ways in which geological features can hold cultural values.
On the Big Island there are often active lava flows. I was impressed by the stories of the ways active flows from Kilauea are treated by local Hawaiians. My niece was liv- ing on the island for a year teaching outdoor education. When I stayed with her, the lava flows a month prior had nearly cut off the only road leading to and away from the town in which she lived, Pahoa. She told me that when the lava started flow-
ing toward the town, the locals painted their houses and cleaned up the highways to welcome the Goddess, Pele. Offerings are also left for Pele. Lava is not diverted from its path, even if it is going to cut off the only road to a town or a group of houses. There is an acceptance of the power of the volcano next to which Hawaiians live. Risk is accept as their own.
I am excited by the way these practices position people in conversation with the movements of the living environment—this is an idea that has inspired the past five years of my work. People bow to the power of these risks, and give respect (offer- ings) to the forces that shape the land. The contrast to the prevalent practice within the United States of denying climate change, and reflexively rebuilding on ecologi- cal precarious places, zoning low income housing in flood plains, etc. made me think about how belief systems can offer alternative possibilities for responding to eco- logical precariousness by positioning people in conversation with the land. They can change the dynamic from exploitation to sustainable practices. They offer a pragmat- ic and spiritual framework for this possibility.
I began building cairns in the landscape—structures usually found in rock fields to help one navigate the terrain—out of native fruits. I did this to help me to enter into a dialog with the land, and to draw a relationship between the volcanic lava and its extreme fertility that produces native fruits. I was literally trying to “find a way into”
a land to which I am not native. The offerings I left and photographed came from starting in a place of gratitude for the land itself. I do not wish to co-opt the practic- es of locals. I left offerings, hopefully as a nod of respect to native practices, and as a reflection of my own gratitude for the volcanic earth itself. The lava comes from the middle of the earth and has a prime-evil feeling to it. It seems ancient, and yet it is the youngest of the formations on the earth’s crust.
Rockfalls and River Canyons
Yosemite and Kings Canyon, California
The boulders in Yosemite Valley and Kings Canyon seem inert. Yet, likely in a thunderous movement, they fell or rolled into place. We find them on the spot on which they now sit, appearing as if they will never move again. There are rock falls all of the time in these canyons. The earth is constantly shifting.
I photographed these boulders as portraits in order to offer them to viewers as something to contemplate. They embody, by virtue of being rocks, a timespan that dwarfs us. The moment when they rolled into place may have been in the recent past or in the ex- tremely distant past. These boulders are awesome in terms of the time scale embedded within them. They contain power. If I could survive such a sight, I would love to see one of these majestic boul- ders fall into place.
The portraits of boulders nod to the19th-century photographs of geological survey photographers such as Carlton Watkins, Edweard Muybridge and Timothy O’Sullivan. The frame around the boulders helps us see the boulder apart from its setting, and emphasizes the sculptural qualities of the boulders.
Rainforests and Redwoods
I roamed around the Redwood forest wondering what it must sound like when one of the trees—trees that can live from 1000- 2000 years—falls down. The first night I was camping in the Red- wood forest at Jedediah State Park, there was an explosion in the night that was the loudest I have ever heard. I thought a tractor trailer carrying gas had exploded on the highway outside the park. When I awoke, I discovered a Redwood tree had fallen a mile from our campsite. I consider it a gift to have heard this sound. The sheer amount of biomass of one of these trees when it is lying on the ground is astonishing.
I photographed primarily the root balls and hollows of the trees that have fallen in the Redwoods. By increasing the amount of apparent light around the trees from the actual amount of light in the forest, it is easier to scrutinize these large masses and to contemplate the amount of time and the enduring transformation of energy they embody.
Rewilding the Elwah
Washington State, Olympic National Park
The massive dam removal project on the Elwah River in August 2014, was one of the most inspiring and hopeful sites I have seen. I think this has to do with the belief systems that prevailed in this sit- uation.
One hundred years ago when two dams were built on the Elwah River, the Indigineous community living on the Elwah was promised salmon ladders so salmon could continue to spawn on the river. For 100 years this community fought to have this promise honored. They prevailed in 2014. The 260 foot concrete dam and its com- panion dam further down the river were removed from the Elwah in August 2014. By September, a run of Salmon swam up the 60 miles of freed, wild river for the first time in 100 years.
When we visited in May 2015, the lake bed of the former dam was awash in blooming lupin bushes that were taller than I stand. These lupin photographs are more beautiful than useful to this story. I don’t know how to integrate the beauty and wonder of this place with this story of land transformation. Perhaps one senses this in the scale of the removal project seen from an aerial perspective, and from standing at the base of the removed dam.
Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska
August 6, 2016
Petrified Forest, Arizona
March 17, 2017
The extreme time span embodied in pieces of petrified wood also imply the transformative power of the earth.
Sonoran Desert, Arizona
The Sonoran desert supports over 2,000 native plant species with only 3-16 inches of rainfall per year. I was struck by the resilience of plants within these conditions.
The Saguaro cactus of the Sonoran desert often germinates in the shade of a deciduous tree. Nurse plants, such as the Palo Verde tree in this context, provide shade that saves a Saguaro seed from desiccation in the hot desert sun. They also provide some protec- tion for succulents from predation by rodents, tortoises and other desert creatures. The Saguaro can live up to 150 years, and the Palo Verde lives almost that long.
Another striking site in the Sonoran Desert is Desert Mistletoe clinging from young branches of trees, extracting water and nutrients from the host xylem and host bark cells. The trees and mistletoe can both live together unless the mistletoe takes over too much sunlight and water from the host plant, in which case it can kill the host.
Rockfalls and River Canyons
Zion National Park, Utah
Rapid Change within the Living Environment, 2017 - 2019
Rapid changes within the living environment happened so quickly in 2017 that it became hard to track them. These changes contrast to slow-moving geologic transformations. They often have disastrous impacts on the built environment, bringing to the fore the intertwined relationship between development and the living environment.
A ten-year drought and wildfires in California were followed by hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma. In terms of property damage, 2017 was the most destructive wildfire season on record in California at the time, including five of the 20 most destructive wild and-urban interface fires in the state’s history. Heavy rainfall in early 2017 in California triggered widespread flooding. According to the online publication Vox (Megadisasters devastated America in 2017. And they’re only going to get worse, by Umair Irfan and Brian Resnick, updated March 26, 2018):
California was drenched in the wettest winter on record, ending years of drought.
Then came California’s most destructive and largest wildfire season ever. The Tubbs Fire in Northern California killed 22 people and damaged more than 5,600 structures.
Hurricane Harvey broke a rainfall record for a single tropical storm with more than 4 feet of rain.
Puerto Rico is still mired in the longest blackout in US history after Hurricane Maria struck three months ago. More than 1,000 are estimated to have died in the storm and its aftermath.
2017 was the third-hottest year on record. San Francisco reported its highest temperature ever, 106 degrees Fahrenheit, while other parts of the country set records for high-temperature streaks. For states like Arizona and South Carolina, 2017 was
the warmest year ever.
14 places across Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas reported record-high water levels during floods in April and May.
Requests for federal disaster aid jumped tenfold compared to 2016, with 4.7 million people registering with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The agency of the earth is loud, and easy to recognize within this context.
Tubbs Fire, October 9, 2017 Coffey Park Neighborhood,
Santa Rosa, California Photographed December 27, 2017
Debris Flow February 16, 2017
San Gabriel Mountains, Pasadena, California Photographed June 8, 2017
Hurricane Harvey, August 25, 2017, Port Arthur, Texas
Photographed September 17, 2017
Hurricane Irma, September 10, 2017 Key Largo, Florida
Photographed September 29, 2017
Camp Fire, November 8, 2018
Photographed May 30, 2019
Chimney Tops 2 Fire, November 23, 2016
Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Re-growth Photographed June 23, 2017
Hurricanes Irma and Maria, September 2017
El Yunque National Park, Puerto Rico
Canopy Regeneration photographed July 2019 (Looking up through the canopy)
Isabela, Puerto Rico
Fossilized Sand Dunes and Dune Restoration, Photographed July 2019