Artist Statement • Outside the Lines
A sewing station in a textile mill sits abandoned but intact, as if the worker walked out mid-shift and never returned. You can picture her sitting there; you can see the color choices she made in gathering her work materials. Christmas decorations sit idly on a desk as though waiting to be hung for the season. A calendar lies on the floor open to the last day. At an abandoned resort in the Catskills lounge chairs sit poolside next to the encroaching fern forest that patiently reclaims the site. Another resort bursts with discarded furniture; the naked elevator shaft stands sentry over the grounds. Trollies, trains and busses rot away in a forest deep in Pennsylvania. We no longer harbor the dreams of the railroad age cultivating mass transport; we’ve become a nation of independents finding our own ways across the landscape and through our lives.
Photographing these sites is a solitary venture. Deep silence wraps around me as I stoop to peer through the viewfinder of the camera mounted on the tripod. No generator sounds from deep within the bowels of the building. Florescent lights do not hum above my head; the furnace fails to provide vibrations through the soles of my boots. I’m wearing my hiking gear and as I move through the building I feel the security of my weatherproof clothing and my daypack, water bottle snugged into the side pocket. When I walk my boots crunch through broken glass, and years of dust and decay. These sounds amplify my interruption, my intrusion on the space and they remind me to act with grace and deference to what happened here when the place was alive.
This is the dissolution of our culture – right before our eyes. As a child I spent weeks each year staring out at the countryside from the backseat of our car while we moved across country at regular intervals. I had no hometown – my roots lay in a nomadic lifestyle. The constant visual stream of billboards, neon signs, storefronts defined our culture as one of consumption. This notion was echoed on the television in countless motel rooms at night.
We continue to build, celebrate, then to abandon our commercial icons. Nothing is permanent, though when we built these factories and trains and swimming pools they were constructed of stone and steel – evidence of our hope and commitment. Like spoiled children we turn our backs upon these places when they no longer serve our desires, and they are left behind to decompose slowly back into the earth.
These empty places are monuments to our past, reminders of our future. They are a testament to our fears. They exist in a limbo outside the lines and behind the façade of prosperity – a map of our collective cultural psyche in year 2015. We want to preserve our past, but we write our history to tell only part of the story. These places sit in waiting and keep our secrets.
Photographing is a means of preservation. Finding small moments, splashed color within these spaces, like sparks of memory just outside our reach, remind us that they once harbored dreams and lives and the objects of our desires – now forgotten.