This online exhibition brings together a loose collection of images, connected by nothing more than the fact that they were made in the past 4-5 months. There is nothing in particular that holds these disparate images together. I simply asked my artists to send me pictures that they had made during this time, with the assumption that somewhere in the pictures, either directly or indirectly, there would be some indication of, or subtle response to, the difficult times we are living through. Some sent me pictures, some didn’t. Some included considerable text, some a few lines. And I decided to just let it be and to share the work in this rather raw way. All accompanying text is from the artists.
I know this may not mean much right now as we struggle with hardships, on multiple fronts, from the threats to our physical well-being to the political, social, economic and emotional uncertainty. But, this is what I do, and I believe in art as a form of comfort. I hope some of this work will touch some of you.
I’ll just end by quoting from Rebecca Solnit’s book, Hope in the Dark, which I’ve been rereading, and finding some solace in. Solnit writes: “Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act… It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, and who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand.”
Wishing everyone hopefulness, peace, and good health
Sasha Wolf, August 2020
In my work, I have always turned to the most personal and intimate parts of my life in order to deal with personal and universal issues. By going deep to every part of my life, drawing from the microcosm within the family, I am to create complex and layered images about being human; love, emotions and connection and relationships, the beautiful and ugly, the highs and the lows. This past March, when the Coronavirus hit all of us globally, I immediately turned my camera into my own life. The first photo of this series, Love in the times of Corona 2020, was taken on March 13th, it was a week or two after standing in front of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph she took during the great depression, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Studying about Dorothea Lange’s life and work and knowing and admiring this specific photograph for so many years, I was so moved to stand in front of it. It touched me profoundly and made me think about challenging times in the history of countries, thinking about my homeland two countries, Israel, and America. I felt fortunate to be living in safe days, not knowing how soon and how much our lives are going to change. It made me think about being an immigrant, being a woman, a mother, and the need to protect our children, especially when you are not at home. I did not think about this series in the usual project terms. This was not like anything else I have done before. COVID happened, and I responded. And over the next weeks, I have created a series of photographs that capture the details of the family, and so many families.
The author Alice Walker was baptized in this church and her parents and relatives are buried in this cemetery in the small rural town of Eatonton, GA. The driveway is also on Wards Chapel Road. I shot these images just after George Floyd was murdered and the protests were ignited, so they felt very relevant to me to our current climate.
The first two photographs were made in Manhattan during June on the same day. My apartment looks over most of midtown, where I hadn’t stepped foot in months. I wanted to see what it felt like to walk around so I took the train to West 4th, walked thru the Village, down to Soho and Tribeca, then up Broadway through Union Square and eventually to an empty Grand Central Station during Rush Hour. The other photograph was made in Richmond, where their downtown shopping district was completely shut due to the scare of riots.
In March, after months of being home with a baby, I was due to travel to Japan for my sabbatical from my teaching job. My partner was doing research on a Fulbright, I was shooting, and the kids were set up to be looked after. A few days before our departure, the State Department pulled all grant funding and invalidated the visas, canceling indefinitely all travel on cultural exchange. I kicked out the renters, unpacked our bags, and returned to the listlessness of full time motherhood. I have always resisted photographing my children, I never liked using them as models. It is with a sense of resentment and out of desperation that I began to make pictures of them. Looking at the images now, I was surprised to find in them not just my own entrapment, but also the shared experience of anxiety, dislocation, and upended lives.
This work is a continuation of my series ‘Afterlife’ where I assume perspectives of 19th century explorer Alexander Humboldt to think about how someone from the past would look at the landscape now. During the quarantine, I was lucky enough to be stuck in a remote area of Montana. Foremost in my mind was a sense of impending doom (my wife is a type 1 diabetic), and I also felt some guilt that we were able to escape New York. You might assume Montana was really relaxing but on the contrary I was overwhelmed with anxiety. I found interesting parallels between Montana being so devoid of people and the empty streets I was seeing of new york on social media. Counterintuitively I was looking for claustrophobic images more densely filled with information. For example in Moose Creek, I haved stacked layers of flora from foreground to background, adding space and a kind of friction between you and what you’re ultimately trying to see. I have also been working on images of flowers that mimic the composition of color field paintings and some self portraits as well. One day a large brush fire erupted right next to where we were staying igniting all these massive trees and it almost burned our house down with it. It felt like a sign of our reckoning with Nature: Our domination of the planet and our ability to control Nature’s will is an impermanent achievement. The peace and stability that we’ve become accustomed to is temporary; chaos is actually our defining paradigm. Our impact on ecology became clear as the world-wide economic shutdown immediately improved pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and species resurgence.
These photos represent my outings to the countryside during the Coid-19 shutdown. When I could, I liked to get out of the city during quarantine. I often drove from my home in Austin till I found some nice dirt roads, where there were forests, farmland, meadows, and flowers. I wandered, waited, looked deeply, and thought about the passage of time and nature’s indifference to humanity.
I thrive in solitude , I believe my work speaks to that . With the most recent set of human disasters I decided to search for another world. Picasso said “ to make art is to keep a journal “ these works are my journal.
Barbara Bosworth spent her time during lockdown finishing up a limited edition book project of pictures she made in Wyoming last summer. And although these pictures are a year old, I believe they are relevant for now, so I included 2 pictures , made as paper negatives, from the book, Where the sun Now Stands. You can see more of the book here
“Using images from the Wyoming landscape, the book tells the story of the Nez Perce people fleeing the US Cavalry in the late 1800s, and is dedicated to all people forced to flee their lands.” Barbara Bosworth.
In an article by Tom Ott on Biography.com he describes how Isaac Newton’s quarantine during the Great Plague of London lead to his “year of wonders. He developed calculus, began studying gravity, and discovered that sunlight consisted of all the visible colors. By directing a small beam of sunlight through a prism he observed that the light bent and separated into the color spectrum. He was able to reverse the split colors with a second prism which recombined the colors back into sunlight.”
What fascinates me about the prism experiments is that it involves all three of Newton’s quarantine pursuits. Calculus is used in astronomy to study planetary motion, gravity is fundamental to planetary motion, and the earth did not stop rotating as he directed the sunlight through the prism. One rough measurement of time says that the sun moves through the sky one finger width every 15 minutes. So, if the sun is four fingers above the horizon toward the end of the day, sunset is in about an hour. Now imagine Newton in his quarantine laboratory. The prism is all set up, the small ray of sunlight is pointed perfectly through the glass, and he can clearly see the light separated into its component colors. Eureka! In a matter of minutes though, as the earth rotates, the sun will be in a different location in the sky and the angle of light will be off. This constant attention to the adjustment of the apparatus would keep him intimately aware of the motion of the earth and sun.
Newton made these discoveries at a family farm miles out of the city, a place closer to nature that he knew intimately. My pictures from quarantine 2020 (as the titles imply) are inspired by Newton’s pursuits during a similar situation so long ago. “The Sun Setting Three Days in a Row, Summer Solstice 2020, Mariaville, Maine” was shot at the family cabin on Hopkins Pond. I’ve been making work there for years now and an intimate knowledge of the place and possibilities continues to develop. The process of color separation was utilized for this image. Red, Green, and Blue exposures were made on consecutive days. Variations in the weather, such as cloud cover and wind across the surface of the water reveal curious moments in the landscape. For example, the area of the sun streak near the horizon is slightly yellow. Red and Green light combine to make Yellow. This means that on the day of the Blue exposure clouds moved in and covered the sun for the last hour of sunset. The colors in the sunlight are revealed through time and weather.
Color separation was also utilized to make “Chance Arrangement with Circles and Gravity #4”. This cameraless image was created in the darkroom. Circles falling onto light sensitive materials become the color information for a single image.
Even in dark times there are colors in the shadows.