I have worked for almost 10 years on Ineffable Codex. The images are rooted in the Grassland Photographs I made of the Chihuahuan Desert for the book “Trinity” I did with Charles Bowden. The project started in earnest in 2008 when I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
My work has always had an arc that starts with straight black and white landscapes and evolves through stages of cutting and reassembling the pieces of images in installations and paintings. I have come to understand this as both the process of life itself where things emerge and for a time have an existence and then are returned to more elemental forms. as well as a way to get at the deeper complexity of the places I photograph.
The plates take time to make, and the piece becomes a kind of journey. The piece has been exhibited even as it has grown over time; shown in unique installations at Tucson Museum of Art, Galleri Urbane in Dallas TX, and Santa Fe University of Art and Design’s Marion Center for Photographic Arts.
I use the word wandering when I explain how I work. I then define wandering as entering into a realm of infinite choices with intent and a deliberate focus on what is there. I often walk at night and travel under the waning and waxing moons. When I leave my truck, I carefully scan the horizon, and I look for the prominent features I might use to find my way back. This is a ritual. In the dark distant mountains that looked so high in evening light disappear into the same scale as the small hills. I have learned to pay attention to the smaller things, without this I would become lost.
When people look at my photographs they often stutter on the words barren and beautiful. This has happened so many times I now smile and repeat – barren and beautiful – in a soft voice, as if to suggest we have come upon and share a secret. I am jealous of the realm of words. With them we can lay down in thin straight lines a little selection of what we perceive from a realm of overwhelming complexity, or tell our stories with our finite breath. Words are the thing that makes us human, and separate us from time and place. We use them to put ourselves at the center, and to declare a kind of dominion over the things that do not speak with our language.
I am befuddled by words so I make photographs. Photographs are not without their problems. We look at one thing that is of many things, select it and preserve it. And sometimes we even think we have a little moment of truth. When instead we should consider how each photograph reflects an infinite number of things we have missed.