The otherworldly, the surreal, and the dreamlike have always been common threads throughout my artwork. Over the past few years, death, or rather, a state of transition, has been my favorite theme to photograph. No one knows for certain what happens when we die; yes, our bodies do decompose, but what becomes of our life-force?
Ashes to ashes, dust to stardust...
I like the idea of death being a precursor to life, and the in between is the transformation, the part where energy changes.
The first photo set I made was inspired by Emily Dickinson's poem, "I Died For Beauty". For the first image, I collected moss and dirt from outside, and the rest of them were created using a large piece of glass, and a couple of yards of tulle fabric. The idea was to illustrate the dreamy textural transformative state, like the magic that happens inside of a cocoon or a womb. I was my own model here, and I listened to Goldfrapp's Felt Mountain on repeat while making these.
This next photo set was made under the oak canopy at Murphy Ranch. The forest is an archetype of mental journey, going into the woods is a metaphor for facing the scary unknown - and being challenged in a place of transformation. My friend Jackie modeled in these photographs, wearing all white while wrapped in a fabric cocoon, holding fennel stalks. After this photo shoot, we discovered that Jackie was covered in spider bites -- uh oh, so we used a little herbal magic right away. Each spot was rubbed with fresh garlic, which kept the swelling down (thank you, Jackie, for still working with me!)
The next two images were created at the Madrona Marsh, with Jackie as my model again. This shoot helped me realize how helpful it would be to have a photo assistant. Fortunately, the forces of nature came to the rescue. At just the right moment, the wind lifted the veil and created what looked like flowing "spiritual energy". The breeze also helped create a sense of movement and change.
In the following images, I used natural elements like color and light, clouds, a dry lake bed, plants and a skull to represent the cycle of death and renewal. I was inspired by Robert Farber's use of organic materials to create mood - the vaseline trick around the frame was practiced here with ethereal results. Model: Jackie.
And finally, mysterious photographs of a dress. This dress was gifted to me by my friend Joan -- it was her old wedding dress, made of pure Irish linen. She was thrilled with the photographs (she's a psychic, so of course, dark eerie things are of interest). This old dress was modeled by myself. I danced in it, twirled in it, wore it like a moth fluttering out of darkness.
Having to deal with death early in life likely played a role in shaping my perspective that while death is scary and mysterious, the figurate (and maybe, even literal) transformation that occurs is quite beautiful. I'm certain this is a subject I'll continue to explore!