I am interested in the physical and intangible geography of place, and in particular, the emotional landscape of home.
In the series 45 Degrees North, I repeatedly photograph my 1875 farmhouse and the surrounding landscape in the Lake Champlain Islands in northern Vermont.
Using everyday household items, such as food coloring, tea, bourbon, matches and sandpaper, I burn, scratch, microwave, layer and dye these negatives. I then scan the results, embracing dust, disintegration and imperfection. Additionally, some of these images are created using multiple in-camera exposures, removing the ability to see the results until the film is processed.
Through this work, I seek to explore the fluid boundaries of past and present, the tensions between domestic comfort and unease, and the energetic imprints that emotional experience can leave behind in the ever-changing physical and psychic terrain of home and place.
Series in progress.
Print Editions: 17"x22" and 24"x28"
The Lasting Memory of Water
Series in progress.
An Order was a site-specific installation that responded to the energy and architecture of the former St Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington, VT.
Excerpts from an essay written by critic Amy Rahn for Overnight Projects:
The floors of the former St. Joseph’s Providence Orphan Asylum shine where feet have recently tracked through the dust, pushing it aside, clearing a path. The five artists whose works in this space comprise An Order spent the months before contending with this space and its history, gently disturbing its stillness, the strange unresolved air—clearing a path.
Allegations of abuse from the Orphanage’s operating years continue to gather like grim ghosts, haunting the abandoned building with their dark inescapable realities. As these artists began to consider what to create in this space, the building’s ghosts loomed; what could be made in a space clouded with trauma, a space thick with what Eliot might have called faded air?
Another room, where monofilament, thin as memory, stitches the closets and cabinets in a frantic web, connecting every corner, holding the room in suspension. The transparent threads trace lost passages through the space, barring its use. Mary Zompetti creates a space to which there is no returning; who are we, standing in the doorway?
Zompetti’s crowd of cyanotypes, little toy houses silhouetted against brilliant blue emulsion—are not quite dollhouses, not quite photographs—they are outlines, dreams of home. Here they pile, all in the corner, every angle imagined. Roofline pitch, door here, window, all the entrances and all the exits are here—framed and imaginary. Nearby, an overhead-projector holds a house within a house, upside-down. Home hovers on the future horizon overland, beyond, in a projected space, beyond these walls. The masonry presses against it.
Mornings & Evenings
But the “feel” of a place takes longer to acquire. It is made up of experiences, mostly fleeting and undramatic, repeated day after day and over the span of years. It is a unique blend of sights, sounds and smells, a unique harmony of natural and artificial rhythms such as times of sunrise and sunset. - Space and Place – Yi-Fu Tuan
July 18: I've been thinking about the energy a place holds, how we create home spaces/nests, and how those spaces, even when empty, can feel stable or chaotic, safe or insecure...
September 17: I am here alone in my kitchen now, a month later. A cool sunny Saturday in September, with my coffee and toast. I am trying hard to breathe, trying hard to be, trying hard to focus, trying to hard to find my voice under a crushing and endlessly perplexing, unexpected grief. I stretch my hand out through a fog and reach nothing. There is literally no making sense of any of it.
January 15: I am simultaneously tired and energetic, calm and wired. My body and my brain are pacing; I'm finding myself wandering around the house, feeling like I need something, or maybe that I need to do something. Laundry? Bills? Tea? A snack? Maybe I should prep one of my classes? I did want to make a new presentation for my first lecture on Tuesday.... Or maybe I should make grocery list? Having food in the house is generally a good idea. I could unpack... or upload video clips from the trip home? Catch up on correspondence? Research? Read? Take some images? Organize my pile of notes? I'm not choosing very well. I've opened the fridge five times, finally settling on a piece of cheese which I ate standing at the counter. I stared at my tea shelf and even that seemed like an impossible decision. Laundry and bills feel like too much of a commitment at this hour.... maybe I just need to hang out with my cat and call it a night. I think I'll add some plain nettle tea and Susan Sontag to that plan and table the rest of it until the morning.
January 23: I am starting to be able to hear myself think. After so much being so suddenly and dramatically blown apart this past summer, I need this.
April 22: It’s quiet and rain is falling; it’s 10:30pm. I’m eating canned soup and bread; keeping it simple as I prepare to move. I think of a sentence from Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, where the interviewer comments that Irwin was good at “managing the sadness.” A minor detail in a book largely about visual perception but it lingered.
May 4. Fifth Night. I was yawning on the couch, ready for bed but the calm quiet of my apartment lulled me into thinking rather than sleeping. I am living in a place not defined by the palpable weight of absence and thus I am more able to be present. I sip my peppermint tea, my eyes burn from exhaustion and I listen to the rain falling. The quiet is no longer oppressive but welcome. I am tired and should sleep but am reluctant to break the spell. Purcell and then Couperin play softly on my computer as I type and I recall my love of the harpsichord. My mind wanders to my neighbor, the sweet mourning dove on her nest outside my window; I imagine her feathers puffed out in the rain.
Nov 8: We woke before dawn, the hazy light of early morning lingering outside and filtering through condensation on the glass. Conversation moved in and out of the surface. The sun slowly rose over the trees and the even light of this cloudy November morning filled the room with diffuse light. Coffee, eggs, cheerios, early morning partings. Left with about two hours of solitude, I turned off my phone and computer and made a cup of tea, a warm and bitter blend of roots. I took some photographs out my kitchen window, enjoying for the first time in a while the slow meditative process of looking through the ground glass of my film camera, my cat nudging her way in front of the lens, curious...
December 30: An even white light is filling my apartment, bright and clean from the many inches of snow reflecting through my space. It's quiet, I'm alone, and I'm enjoying breakfast and coffee. I haven't been finding the mental space to write recently and despite being late this morning, I'm choosing to make the time for what will be the last update of the year, knowing that it will be a few weeks before I find myself with the time. Another cup of coffee, and an attempt to suspend my task list for just a few moments...
Sudden loss, transition and change prompted me to repeatedly photograph the newly quiet landscape of my home.
Eventually, I emptied out the rooms and installed the photographs back into each room, creating a site-specific installation that moved the participant through the emotional and physical landscape of "house" and "home". Photographs were deconstructed and rebuilt and visual clues led viewers through the rooms, from the main floor living room and kitchen, up into the attic bedroom and finally down into the basement.
These photographs are the installation images from the House/Home Project, created in May 2012. This 3-floor, 6 room installation included photographs, projection, video and 2 rooms where the house itself became the camera.
For more images from the photographic series that led to this installation, see the project "Mornings and Evenings".
Through her simple apparatus, the sunny outside world was projected upside-down on the walls of the darkened rooms. In one, the inverted house of a neighbor gained eerie clarity as the viewer’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. In another, a row of spindly trees became a lacy wainscoting in the room’s half-light. The inversion of interior and exterior space made the walls of the house seem conceptual and meditative instead of comfortingly solid and familiar.
Amy Rahn, Critic and Writer
West Rutland Marble Mills
West Rutland Marble Mills was a site-specific installation containing a looping, animated video of 147 data-glitched .jpg files as part of Memory Works: Sculptfest 2015 at the Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland, VT.
The original source image was a scan of a black and white historic photograph taken when the Vermont Marble Works quarry was still operational. Each still image in the video was created by randomly deleting material progressively from the source code of the image. The image is rearranged and deteriorated by the code being removed until it is no longer viewable. The 148th image to be "glitched" was no longer viewable; hence the video is 147 stills in addition to the original image.
West Rutland Marble Mills
Navigation: Arctic Sun
As winter changed to spring, I investigated remote areas of the solitary northern Icelandic landscape with a film camera and other optical tools such as the Icelandic Spar.
Before the magnetic compass, it is thought that the Vikings used the Icelandic Spar to navigate. This prismatic calcite crystal has double-refracting properties that allowed the direction of the sun to be deciphered, even in the dim light of winter near the Arctic Circle.
Print Editions: 17"x22" and 24"x28"
28 vignettes of time and space referencing the lunar cycle and responding to the energy of the Icelandic landscape.
Lava stones and sulphur collected from the geothermal fields of Myvatn, Northern Iceland, the Icelandic spar and light, read and interpreted by the scanner-camera.
Print Editions: 17"x22" and 24"x28"
Print Edition, 17"x22"
Ruth Working in the Garden
Lake Champlain Botanicals
In the mid-19th century Anna Atkins, the first woman photographer, used the chemical cyanotype process to document the natural world, creating lush, blue images of plant life and algae. Her photographic images, created by placing specimens on chemically coated paper and exposing to the sun, created a window into the unique form and texture of the materials she examined. In this series, Lake Champlain Botanicals, I am examining plant matter, water and stones collected from Lake Champlain through the lens of 21st century digital technology - specifically, a camera created from an open flatbed scanner. The specimens I collect are placed directly on the surface of the glass. Colors and lines are generated through both random and planned glitches in the scanner software caused by movement, light and reflection. The deep blue generated through this process was a happy accidental glitch and created further connection across the centuries between my experimental process and Atkins work.
"In dialogue with the algae cyanotypes of the 19th century English photographer Anna Atkins, Zompetti’s printing process can be thought of as digital contact sheets. The lusciously colored prints of botanical elements, combined with their enormous scale, engage the viewer in a dialogue of meaning and importance of the natural world. We become small in comparison to a blade of grass, or a drop of water and are given a rare and magical insight into the beauty of nature through these prints." Curator DJ Hellerman
Print Editions: 17"x22" and 44"x72"
Late Champlain Botanical #1
Lake Champlain Botanical #2
Lake Champlain Stone #1
Within a constructed scanner camera, I generate images, scanning light, space and time. I place analog film negatives and other objects, such as prisms, lenses and mirrors, within this apparatus. Each produced photographic file is unique to each scan, much like how the scanning of memory and experience changes with each recollection.
Print Editions: Size variable.
Installation view, 40"x60" archival prints mounted on Dibond