The Artist Intervenes: Adriene Hughes
This week we feature artists who are intervening with their photographs, though cutting, sewing, embroidery, wrapping, and more. In response to the loss of the evidence of the artist’s hand in contemporary digital photography, a number of artists are reconsidering the potential of an image with a move towards making rather than taking photographs. By using vintage and contemporary photographs as a starting point, artists are creating physically layered works of art that result in a handmade one-of-a-kind object, expanding the notion of what we consider photographic art. We begin the week with Adriene Hughes, who is also our juror for The Artist Intervenes Exhibition that will run on Saturday. A big thank you to Adriene for her time and energies.
Photographer/Artist Adriene Hughes has the unique ability to consider and transform the natural world into a form of magic. Her projects speak to the environment in distress, deftly threading intervened marks that physically connect her to the subject matter. Hughes’ new project, The Language of Trees, explores how plants communicate, in particular, the underground fughi that have networks throughout the forest. Using infrared capture, she recognizes that the color shifts are a way of recording this communication as the trees. As Hughes states, “The intervention of embroidery into this work is my vision of what that fungal network—the biochemical and electrical signals—would look like if it were visible to the eye.” The result of these actions and considerations is an explosion of color and beauty, even in times or peril.
Adriene Hughes is a San Diego based fine art photographer with an MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Tufts University. She is a multi-media artist whose current body of work is based within the genre of grand landscape and the effects of global warming on the environment through the use of infrared technology, photography, and video installation.
Hughes’ photography has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including video installation at Venice Biennial at the Scuola Grande della Misericordia, and the Lishui International Photo Festival, China. Recent exhibitions include Klompching Gallery, New York, Centro Cultural (CECUT) Tijuana, Mexico, California Center for the Arts, Sawtooth ARI Tasmania, Microwave International New Media Festival Hong Kong, and Simultan Festival Romania. Her photographs have been featured in many publications including Wired, Harper’s Magazine, PDN, Phroom Magazine, German Foto, Humble Arts Foundation, Don’t Take Pictures, Lenscratch, and PhotoPhore. She is also the recipient of the 2018 Rhonda Wilson Award with Klompching Gallery, a 2018 Critical Mass Top 50 recipient, and 2020 Critical Mass finalist. Public Art includes San Diego International Airport and the Boston Convention Center. She recently installed a 144 ft. large-scale photographic mural project at the San Diego International Airport, as well as an environmental infrared video installation of the Southern California desert landscape.
The Secret Life of Trees
This project began as a series of photographs in 2017 taken during a forest fire in Washington State with the use of an infrared camera. The colors are an anomaly: they are the product of infrared light bending through smoke, combined with a chemical reaction in the leaves that registered a forest in the throes of distress. Scientists agree that forests are made up of communities of trees and plants that communicate with each other, and that interconnect through a fungal network that forms bonds between the trees’ roots, a phenomenon known as the mycorrhizal network. This network of fungi can spread over many miles, connecting thousands of trees to one another. The resulting colors in these photos, I believe, is the recording of this communication as the trees warned and defended each other of the impending fire.
The intervention of embroidery into this work is my vision of what that fungal network—the biochemical and electrical signals—would look like if it were visible to the eye. Embroidery, seen as a technique historically reserved by the practices of women, is to lay claim to the photographic landscape under my terms as a craft-maker. I also believe the earth speaks to us in colors much like the chakras of Vedas philosophy: green represents the heart, blue the center of communication and red is the sacral root which ties us to the earth. The colors created by infrared technology, and the thread I stitched into these photographs, was to tie my physical body to the etherical, and the etherical into the landscape.
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