When the meditation of process within the physical act of creation “sinks in,” personal meaning is born within the creation of image. Birth, death, creation- all have founded themselves as major themes within the realm of human condition. From art, the creation of image begins to lend itself to spiritual awakening and the understanding of life becomes poetic. This poetry of spirit and synthesis of material from nothing (useless matter or material) into something of worth (art, poetic image) is the alchemical process of old. The alchemical artist does not seek gold or wealth but awakening in image- wealth of divinity in spirit. The use of precious metals in alternative process photography can be misleading in this sense. It is not the precious or rare nature of the metal that makes it part of the alchemical process, it is the wealth in the physical qualities of image that can be created. The physical act of photographing (synaptic reflex and momentary acceptance of image) is the dialogue between the artist and the image. It is the asking of the divine (“angels in the light” as Minor White put it) for awakening. The act of developing film (rhythmic in its own right), the mixing of chemicals, and the exposure of the print are tools that allow the photographer to recreate the asking of the divine and form the spirit of the finished piece.
Project Statement: The Sunflower Sutra
Siddhartha Guatama sat on a hill above his congregation and held aloft a full lotus plant. Struck by the pure image of the spotless flower down to the muck encrusted roots, Mahakasyapa smiled from the congregation and was enlightened. The purity of poetic and symbolic image moves us to a heightened sense of understanding the spirit. Visual syntax can recreate the human condition in completeness.
Initially I set out to illustrate Allen Ginsberg’s poetic interpretation of Mahakasyapa’s enlightenment, seeking to portray image as the catalyst for enlightenment. As I moved through the photographic process the scene of the train yard layered itself into my interpretation. The importance of the scene eventually took priority over the outcome because it was truly the grit and grime that inspired both Ginsberg and Mahakasyapa. My scrolls should not be viewed in any chronological sense in relation to the poem. Rather, they should be seen as one image for one scene on one day in the life of one person who is about to be spiritually awakened by the utter reality of the world for which the train yard is only a microcosm.
“We are not out skin of grime…” -Allen Ginsberg