Cartography and the Cultural Terrain: In this body of work, I use photographic (film-based) images of landscapes and geological forms symbolic to me as an avenue to examine the historic impetus for westward expansion, colonialism and the search for natural resources. I attempt to create visual narratives that gain their ambiguity from the photographic techniques employed as well as the juxtaposition of the visual data from maps, artifacts and other text. This work has been an ongoing dialogue into the contradictory concepts surrounding landscape and visual representations of geography, and how these relate to cultural memory, identity and ecological issues.
CHON: Carbon-Hydrogen-Oxygen-Nitrogen:I live most of the year in Prescott, Arizona and the remaining time I spend in Absarokee, Montana. For the past five years I have been photographing in and around the Powder River Basin in north central Wyoming (see Cartography and the Cultural Terrain), a stunning landscape where energy exploration is expanding exponentially. Wyoming is “ground zero” for oil, gas and coal exploration. Mining, drilling, hydraulic fracturing and transportation of energy resources takes a huge toll on the natural environment, destroying habitat for a great number of species (from sage grouse to pronghorn, trout to humans), leaving unsightly scars and detritus while contaminating ground water reserves. But currently, we are a society dependent upon fossil fuels. If our western habitats are to survive massive industrial development of energy resources, warming temperatures, pollution, and livestock grazing then we must begin to embrace our responsibilities.
Cartography and the Cultural Terrain: I use these images in general to explore a range of ideas surrounding historic and contemporary westward expansion, but in particular as an examination of environmental factors related to mining and land use practices. I am increasingly interested in the motivations, sacrifices and belief systems behind colonialism that laid the groundwork of the American Dream and now plague us in our consumer based society.
In addition to the socio-cultural questions about the westward movement, I am interested in how this expansion affected land use practices, species habitat, ecological sustainability and other conflicting cultural and environmental values inherent within notions of the American West. These issues gave rise to the impetus to explore the balance within the relationship between the benevolent and malignant aspects of our intersection in nature and culture, while ultimately exploring the crossroads of science and art.
CHON: These four elements; are the core of life’s sustaining cycles, events and processes including respiration, photosynthesis, decomposition, oxidation and precipitation. In this new body of photographs I attempt to explore the intersection of art, science and nature, chaos and climate, while trying to understand the tenuous equilibrium that these core elements play within the ecosystem, for reclamation and restoration of a planet in peril. This selection of photographs focus on a visual investigation of these elements within life's soup amidst the arid landscapes west of the 100th meridian contrasted alongside images of natural reclamation occurring in an abandoned battery at Fort Worden, Washington.
Deborah (Springstead) Ford has been a professor of photography since 1982 and currently is Executive Director of Playa, Summer Lake Oregon, a residency program for artists, writers, scientists and others involved with research and creative inquiry. She has been an arts advocate, educator and program administrator in addition to being a professional visual artist. She studied photography at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Arizona State University and Goddard College. Ms. Ford has a BFA in Photography, a Master’s in Photography/Art Education and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts. She taught photography full time from 1982-2013, the last 18 years at Prescott College in northern Arizona. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including four Arizona Commission on the Arts Grants, including an Artist Project Grant (2009) and participated in many Artist-in-Residence programs around the country including the Biosphere 2, Ucross Foundation, Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, Joshua Tree National Park, Isle Royale National Park, and Aspen Guard Station to name a select few. Her work is found in numerous public and private collections including the Center for Creative Photography, California Museum of Photography (Riverside), Northlight Gallery, Sitka Center for Art and Ecology among others. Her work has been exhibited nationally and recent publications include a profile in Black and White Magazine, Issue #82. (April 2011), Arid: A Journal of Desert Art, Design and Ecology, and recent photographs in Orion (November/Decmber 2013) magazine .
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