“ The Light in Delight”
Taken from Gallery Brochure for Deborah Garwood: Evan's Pond A Long Term Study of a Single Place;
Mildred Hawn Gallery October 2 to November 19, 2006.
Evans Pond, April 16, 2005[Croftside Forest Floor], parts 1-3.
Evans Pond: A Long Term Study of a Single Place is the title of this sequence of photographs by the artist Deborah Garwood. The simplicity as mark of humility; the absence of grandeur; the confrontation, finally, with what is most difficult: the thisness of what is here – singularity – yet hinted at, seen in a cosmological frame, for light, from Robert Grosseteste to Wordsworth, has always signaled a poetic cosmology. Garwood’s photographic practice is a poetics of place with a distinct American Tradition: William Carlos Williams’s Paterson of New Jersey, Charles Olson’s Gloucester, Massachusetts, in the Maximus Poems, and from there to the Robert Smithson of Spiral Jetty and the many studies of and engagement with the archaeology, light, soil, artefacts, and textures of New Jersey locations and being located. (It is very likely through Smithson that profoundly Olsonian terms enter the practice of Garwood.) In each of these, as with Garwood’s developing oeuvre, there is grandeur of scope built through the humble, the particular, the small, the overlooked – the first photograph was, after all, of a still-life arrangement on a table – made enigmatic because suddenly opened to repetition and thereby conceptual. Such attention to place being not merely a celebration of place but a deep act of attention to its realization / destruction, appearance / disappearance, recognition / ignorance, leading to an awareness of and attention to the construction of place. And let us not forget that for Freud construction was a term of historization: one constructed the psychic links of the unconscious mind as a patient archaeologist does the strata of the past – a term linked and made all the more powerful by its link to fiction, for what is constructed, cannot be held separate from fictionality. So these photographs, in exploring phenomenological and formal repetition, are yet structural and conceptual (there is a clear parallel with structural film): the use of figures of return, the interval (marked, sometimes, by a cut, a gap) to suggest differentiation in continuity, that, ultimately, the fragment may suggest (grow to?) new structural wholes (fictions) and these figures, which make the looking eye aware of itself, of the weight of resistance, come to suggest the work involved in capturing in light this single place – Blake’s eternity in a grain of sand might be topos here - namely the sublimely futile attempt to see time as if what can be seen in feeling can be transferred – translated? – to another light, as though the supreme experience of embodiment – that is, the reception, the acceptance of the weight of time passing – can be transferred to the presence of captured light, in the blink – the interval – of an eye. Whence, then, the movement between color and black-and-white, where in the black and white takes there is explored temporality of stasis, inertness, decay, in other words, something akin to the entropy of Smithson, but even more so – for this viewer – the experience in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves of the experience of the world drained of color as a way of capturing the fading out of consciousness – and being – before, that is, the glorious return in the effulgence of color as surprise against the inertness, the ground of what is captured in black-and-white – and yet, even in color, there is stasis, yet this time as though time, the weight of time, had caught light being light, and in certain moments of inertness there is also beauty, the beauty of repose and just beign there. Letting be. Such is the treasure and the presence of the Single Place in Evans Pond.
Michael Stone-Richards is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Liberal Arts, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, where he teaches comparative literature, critical theory, and modern and contemporary art. His book Theresa Hak Kyung Cha: Two Commentaries with be published in the fall of 2006; a set of essays by him, Logics of Separation: Exile and Transcendence in Aesthetic Modernity, is forthcoming from Peter Lang