Christa Bowden: Roots & Nests
In a time where much of life feels out of control and lacking in beauty, Christa Bowden’s poetic and delicate constructions seem the perfect anecdote to rise above the noise of the outside world. With her project, Roots & Nests, Christa scans fragile evidence of new life, then layering the surface with encaustic wax, adding to the preciousness of the subject matter and reconnecting us to the natural world. Work from this project will be included in the upcoming VIEWFIND: PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition at the Page Bond Gallery in Richmond, Virginia. The exhibition will run January 20 to February 25, 2017, and the opening reception will be 6-8 pm on January 20, 2017. Other artists in this exhibition include Mary Ellen Bartley, Stacey Evans, Elijah Gowin, John Grant, Mercedes Jelinek, Dean Kessmann, Sally Mann, Amanda Means, Hullihen Moore, Lanvi Nyguen, Tori Purcell, Gordon Stettinius, and William Wylie.
Christa Bowden was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1975. She earned an MFA in photography from the University of Georgia and a BA in photography and film from Tulane University. She is an Associate Professor of Art at Washington & Lee University, where she started the program in photography in 2006. She has been the recipient of a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Fellowship and a nominee for the Santa Fe Prize for Photography. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States in both solo and group shows, including at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond), the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (New Orleans), the Center for Photography at Woodstock (Woodstock, New York), and the Peninsula Museum of Art (Belmont, CA), among others. Her work has also been included in numerous photography blogs and artist indices, including Plates to Pixels, Light Leaked, Don’t Take Pictures, and Art Photo Index, and highlighted as an Editor’s Pick by LensCulture Contemporary Photography. Her work also appears in the recently published Anthology of Appalachian Photographers from Sapling Grove Press, as well as Exploring Color Photography, 6th edition by Robert Hirsch. She is currently the Southeast region chair for the Society for Photographic Education and lives in Lexington, Virginia.
Roots & Nests
Three years prior to the inception of this project, I moved with my husband and young son from urban Atlanta, Georgia to the tiny, rural town of Lexington, Virginia. This move refocused our world to be almost entirely centered around our small band of three, and building our home far away from our extended family and friends.
Like many in our area, I began planting a vegetable garden in the summer.
With this came the task of many hours spent pulling weeds. This is usually a meditative activity for me, requiring physical rather than mental effort, and therefore freeing my mind to ponder other things. At one point during this seemingly endless job, I paused to evaluate the root structure of a weed that I had just pulled. I was suddenly amazed at the complicated, vein-like system that delivered sustenance to the plant. With our recent relocation in mind, I began to think of roots in a larger sense, as a metaphor for family and home. I started to explore other visual symbols of these ideas. Nests, as well as more subtle metaphors such as twisted muscadine vines and cocoon-like leaf fragments, became a part of the project. A second son joined our family, and as we continued to establish our roots and build our nest, I continued to seek a visual way to express this process.
Although this work is explored through techniques not necessarily associated with photography, I consider them to be photographs. The images are constructed and photographed using a flatbed scanner. The prints are often broken up, and brought back together in diptychs, triptychs, and quadrants of panels. I am interested in how an organic line is broken by a geometric edge, then continued, as the viewer’s eye attempts to complete the image. The prints are also layered with encaustic wax. With this, I hope to create a sense of a protective layer around the ideas of family and home, almost like encased precious objects. I attribute this to the need to express my maternal instincts and desire to protect my family in a visual way. Finally, a number of the roots have carved marks in the wax, with blood red oil pigment rubbed into the line work. I hope that through this, the viewer can further connect the metaphorical representation of roots to the idea of family, as well as see the visual connection between blood vessels and root structures.
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