Fine Art Photography Daily

On Getting an MFA: Article Three

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“Pushing Up Daisies” © Sarah J Stankey

This second semester of working towards my MFA has been possibly even more eye opening than the first. Through hitting a wall mentally and physically by being busier than I ever have been in my life, my mind was able to begin functioning on an almost subconscious level. (In hindsight, purchasing my first home during this transition probably contributed to these feelings too…) This type of mind set is allowing me to stop thinking so hard, or rather to stop over thinking about my interests and motivations that drive my work. It’s almost like I had to undo many of the skills and values I had as an undergraduate student. I no longer conceive of a project by writing a proposal to myself (or a professor) and then go out and find photographs to make that fit that arrangement, rather, I make work and have epiphanies about it as it’s happening through interactive dialogue and “play time”. From the people I have chosen to interact with, I am being encouraged to take risks in my artistic practice that are allowing me to remember what it is about art that motivates me to keep making and keep trying.

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© Sarah J Stankey

While I’m still interested in reaching out to an art audience (obviously, that’s why I’m posting this here), I’m also increasingly interested in how my work can reach other audiences as well, or at least engage more with them, including scientists, historians and the general public (if you’ve been following my articles here, you might recall me mentioning this last time too). At the point that one reaches graduate school in the arts, it becomes easy to be the type of person who uses “art jargon” to describe everything and explanations become so convoluted that they lose meaning entirely when given to anyone outside of the contemporary art world or sometimes even to themselves. I also see a tendency towards students not even trying to explain their work, there’s the “I’d rather not say anything at all” person during critiques every time. That being said, I’ll do my best to give a short, but thorough background to these images I’m sharing here without getting overly complicated (haha).

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© Sarah J Stankey

“Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.” This is a quote that I first learned while I was a young girl in the scouts. It comes from the “Leave No Trace” philosophy of naturalists, people I look up to and are truly stewards of the environment. But following this concept has always been somewhat difficult for me because I find myself with an impulse to bring nature home with me. I do what I can to collect in a way that does not harm or interfere with living organisms, all the specimens I have in my possession were found already deceased. This collection is my way of preserving life and brings meaning back to the objects that I come across. Through these relics of nature, I can learn and share with others the fascination of the flora and fauna that I find. In this way, I want to evoke the feelings of childhood excitement for exploration and curiosity. The intimacy I feel with each of these pieces continually reminds me of the importance of my actions on the land and continues to influence the many ways I cherish it.

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© Sarah J Stankey

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© Sarah J Stankey

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© Sarah J Stankey

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© Sarah J Stankey

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© Sarah J Stankey

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© Sarah J Stankey

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