Everywhere I look it’s a construction site. Works in progress. Building, re-building, replacing…. Improving. Concrete and wood are my terra firma these days as I fix up my current home for selling and watch the progress of renovating the new home. In both places I bask in the stark beauty of newly painted walls, the smell of fresh-cut pine trim, and the echo of empty space. Seeing the concrete that will soon be hidden away under carpets and flooring is comforting. There’s something grounding about being in the middle of the bare bones of a place, when it’s devoid of all the furnishings and stuff of daily living.
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Sometimes, when I look out over my pond, the sky above is so full of clouds it seems heavier and more solid than the water below. The scene was gloomy the other day, but lovely enough before I dropped the image into Photoshop and brightened the horizon line. I flipped the whole thing upside down. And the rock from Finger Lakes Stone became a frozen, angry sky. Most likely Seasonal Affective Disorder is affecting my fabricated landscapes these days. Must search out some color. Soon.
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It must have been one of my rough days, the day I photographed this huge pile of discarded building materials and then turned the image upside down in Photoshop. “The sky is falling, the sky is falling,” is what I imagined at the time. Later, I added a photo of a chipped rock ledge for the “sky” to land onto. And, to contain the chaos, I framed the scene with rebar, rods used to reinforce concrete. Unfortunately, now when I regard this fabricated landscape, I’m reminded of media images of floods and rivers swollen with debris, carrying off people’s homes and belongings. Creating these fake landscapes is not always an uplifting endeavor. But I get to control the devastation and disturbance in this one small scene.
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I hate saying goodbye. Saying, “See you again soon” feels much easier, even if I know I won’t be back—or see whoever or whatever— ever again. So when I leave, I go quietly, often without saying anything, and without leaving a trace. Sometimes my exit is all about escaping, and sometimes I’m simply moving on to some other adventure. No looking back. No regrets, usually. Just off, alone, into the sunset.
This juxtaposition of rocks at the Finger Lakes Stone Company reminded me of that. At the quarry there were slabs of stone and huge hunks of concrete wherever I looked, and I photographed dozens of lonely landscapes. The only thing I did in Photoshop for this fabricated landscape was piece together a frame from the lengths of concrete-strengthening rebar that I found laying about.
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My kids used to accuse me of not knowing how to play, not being silly enough. And it’s true. Silliness never came naturally to me. But now, photo-shopping allows me to stretch the truth and lie. To make things up. To play. Even when I’m depressed.
The bellies were plump and sagging on all the animals at the farm where I was doing a class photo-shoot. Back home, by the time I dropped my images into Photoshop, I couldn’t remember exactly whose belly I’d shot, a sheep’s or a goat’s or a horse’s. No matter. For my fabricated landscape of the week, I was turning whoever’s hairy belly it was into a heavenly body. I placed it over the upended, very somber trunk of a tree that, in my mind, resembled a flowing river. This is about as silly as I get.
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In the middle of a bright sunny day fatigue was overtaking me. All I wanted to do was nap. There was no way I could muster up the energy to do yard work so, instead, I promised myself ice cream if I could finish up one more fabricated landscape in Photoshop. I got lost in the project, as I knew I would, forgetting the ice cream and the fatigue, as well as whatever was depressing and stressing me. I worked away until the day grew dark and it was time for dinner. And in the end, I felt inspired, proud, and productive.
In Photoshop, the beautiful slope of a horse’s back became a moonlit hill. The belly of another horse fit neatly into the curve of the back to make a night sky. Then, using the dodge tool, I etched out a moon into the smooth dark horse-belly sky.