I was thinking of my father when I fabricated this landscape. All day yesterday, as I weed-whacked up and down my long driveway and then raked and pulled pondweed, I remembered how pleased my father was to do work around his house. He taught me that it’s a privilege to have a nice home and to keep it in good shape. He had come to the States in the early 1940s with nothing but ambition; he worked hard to build up his dreams. When I do yard work around my home I feel like he’s watching me.
In Photoshop, I turned the reflection of a bare tree upside down and “planted” it in a foreground of pebbles. The image was not good enough to honor or represent my father so I framed it in multiple built-up frames, like the biggest hug I could give.
My overgrown pondweed situation was almost under control the morning I noticed pollen forming over most of the pond’s surface. It was like a giant floating oil slick. To make things worse, feathery tufts falling from nearby trees were being carried by the wind and landing on the ugly oily film. Unlike the algae and pondweed I’d been pulling out the past weeks, this would be almost impossible to get rid of. But I don’t mind hard work. Sometimes, immersing myself into hard physical labor, I can forget to be miserable and depressed. And it feels pretty good afterward to have been productive, to see the fruits of my labor.
The few clear spots on the pond, where the surface tension had broken, reminded me of meandering rivers. I photographed the mess. Then, dropping one of the images into Photoshop, I added a “sun” crafted from a shot of the sump pump cover on my lawn.
It was raining for days and days. Cooped up alone at home, I felt isolated and depressed. And frustrated because I had to delay my plan to focus on photographing bodies of water. I’d been hoping to shoot my pond and Cayuga Lake downtown, maybe Bullhead Pond up in Connecticut Hill. Instead, hunkering down in the house with mugs of hot chocolate, I rummaged through the kitchen and found a vase that reflected light like a rippled stream. In the high shelves where rarely used serving pieces lie in wait, there appeared a glass platter that could pick up the tiniest bit of light in the dim. In Photoshop, I paired these images to produce the fabricated landscape of the week.
Making borders. Framing. For a long time I wondered why it was so satisfying to enclose each of my fabricated landscapes in a decorative border. My work just doesn’t feel done until I’ve framed it. Sometimes I photograph existing picture frames and then transpose their images into negatives in Photoshop, changing the colors and enhancing the shadows and highlights. Often I’ll start a frame from scratch, finding an interesting tooled edge or naturally defined edge on something and then I’ll stretch it out and piece it together, mitering the ends into four sides. Occasionally I’ll superimpose a floral or grassy graphic on the pieces. Surrounding my pictures is like securely wrapping them up into cozy nests. It’s like marking each newly composed place separate from the rest of the world.
The land and sky here is from the frothy edge of a wave washing up on a sandy shore, turned upside down and inverted to its negative in Photoshop. The moon is drawn from the image of an old tarnished Celtic knot pendant that I lightened and highlighted.
Inspiration for these fabricated landscapes often smacks me when I’m not at all focused on creating. Preparing to cook clams on my grill one evening, I unwrapped a package of metal mesh grilling sheets, shifting the layers in the process. The way they reflected the light reminded me of an ocean’s surface. A seascape, I thought. And later, in Photoshop, I paired the mesh sheets with a photograph of crystal plates that reflected similar angles and diamond shapes when stacked. Moon over a calm ocean. Too calm, I realized. I wanted it to be lighter, more uplifting. So I superimposed an image of the discarded remains of cutout tin can tops I’d photographed at a local scrapyard—to fill the sky with flying birds.
There was an eye in the middle of the underside of a steel chute at the gravel pit. In a world where landscapes are riddled with security cameras, I did not question its presence. We’re always being surveyed and recorded. Possibly even in the remotes of a sand and gravel quarry, I thought.
In Photoshop, the only thing I added to the image was the frame that I pieced together from my photos of nearby gravel-transporting equipment. Also, I lightened up the dark steel to bring out its texture. Rusted metal can be so beautiful; it can be so depressing. But that eye—it was such a docile eye, a bit like that of an adoring pet—it almost turns the tiny industrial landscape into a portrait.