Angus McCullough: States Project: Vermont
I met Angus McCullough last year, set up by a mutual friend who is a curator and writer in New Hampshire: “I can’t believe you two haven’t met!” I decided to change that and set off for Bennington on the opposite side of the state to visit him in his studio. Both Angus and his work completely blew me away. To call him a photographer would be misleading and overly simplistic, he works in a variety of mediums ranging from sculpture to installation to video. Angus’ work is simultaneously playful, conceptual, and obsessive, and his hunger for artistic dialogue is infectious. Upon meeting, I immediately identified with his project The Bushes of Bennington County. Like me, Angus was a recently transplanted city person trying to make sense of Vermont’s natural landscape via an obsessive photographic inventory and a dry sense of humor.
Angus McCullough is a multidisciplinary designer and maker. He works in a variety of fields including sculpture, video, drawing, photography, architecture, music/sound, performance, etc. (unforeseen circumstances lead to new mediums and combinations). Born and raised in Brooklyn, he is currently based in North Bennington, Vermont.
His work has been shown at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Bennington Museum, Burlington City Arts, Buoy Gallery, Judson Memorial Church, and other venues up and down the east coast of the United States. In print, his words and images have been published in the New York Times, Architectural Record, Landscape Architecture magazine, FRAME, 3 Quarks Daily and BF Bifocals.
The Bushes of Bennington County
In thinking about calling myself a photographer, it boils down to this: I’ve been taking photographs for about ten years now. I’m fascinated by the banal and ignored spaces we inhabit and how they can be highlighted to bring them into clearer focus through humor, beauty or analysis.
The selections here are from two projects, the first being The Bushes of Bennington County. After moving here from New York City, I began noticing bushes and shrubs in my town and how odd they seemed. I sent images to two friends back in the city under the heading “the Bushes of Bennington County” as a joke. It was a way to stay disengaged with my immediate surroundings by treating them like an alien land. But then I started working on this series in earnest and the photos started to resemble portraits very quickly. I began to see these bushes as representative of personalities: their own, and those of their owners. I even named some of them after friends they seemed to resemble. In an age when we groom online personas with self- awareness (and often self-consciousness) these vegetal façades ended up being revealing.
As the collection grew, the images started to represent something about mass culture in a semi-rural place. Once the groove was set, the shooting sessions became a search for meaningful ideology hidden within this vernacular custom, and it led to a greater awareness of context. The project was shown at the Bennington Museum and Burlington City Arts in 2014, and is being published in a limited-run book later in 2015.
America, is That You?
The second set of images I’m including here are from a 5-month road trip around the U.S. in 2012. The series evolved alongside my journals and were edited down to a series called America, is That You? The long trip was solitary, un-planned, and gave me a sense for how huge this place is. It was a temporary escape from urbanity and gave me 12,000 miles of new sights to see. By changing my place constantly I was able to find something new every day, and it became a very freeing experience. A huge part of me loves wandering and collecting, and America, is That You? comes from that formula of chance-research.
The photos capture tangential interactions between humans and landscape through material waste, formal control, or ideological conceit. America has always been about this interaction, with all its dirt, elegance and solipsism continually propagating across the continent. In these and in all my photographs, I find it hard to see a single place that hasn’t been touched by the presence and/or subsequence absence of human beings
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