Interview - Fall 2016
Lisa Wood by Genevieve Day
Q: Your photographs border on abstraction. Are these the types of landscapes you are interested in or is this a formal decision?
It's less a formal decision and more of the way I love to see. In looking through the viewfinder, I'll see Helen Frankenthaler or Ellsworth Kelly, on and on. To notice the lyrical, the perfection in something...anything...is moving. So, I'm interested in diverse landscapes, and seeing the persistence of aesthetic and poetry, feeling the connection of the present with past and future...timelessness. Aaron Siskind, the first to combine photography with abstraction, gave us a new avenue in which to see and to think about our everyday environment. Our comprehension and relationship with what is around us takes new direction and new meaning.
Q: Your work has been centered around nature and the landscape for the last 5 years. What inspires you about these themes?
The essence of its candid, unwavering existence, its timelessness and emptiness, its poetry and beauty, its silence, its prominence within our memories.
Q: This reminds me of a quote by Susan Sontag in “On Photography” in which she writes “Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality...One can't possess reality, one can possess images--one can't possess the present but one can possess the past.” Photography is a medium based on the preservation of a single moment. Are you attempting to document a changing landscape by freezing it in time?
In one sense, yes, given how rapidly our world is changing. At the heart of it though, I'm interested in every part of the exploration and poking at habits of perception and telling new stories.
Q: Tell me a bit about growing up in Pittsburgh and any influence it may have had on your work. I grew up in Pittsburgh during the 70’s and 80’s. I distinctly remember how pollution smelled on summer mornings. My father’s career was with US Steel; we only drove American cars. Pittsburgh was a cohesive, melting pot of a population, toughened by hardship, united through work and pride. I identify with the American ideals of work, perseverance and strength through hardship that shaped my hometown. I’m not interested in the traditional sense of beauty in landscape. I prefer a more straight-forward, stripped down version and in this; I am connected to these traditional ideals.
It seems that this city eventually inspired the move West to Idaho and it’s natural environment.
Yes, I wanted to live in a place where the natural environment dictated the way of life. Idaho is the perfect place for this. These seasons are pronounced. There is so much open space and protected wilderness, second most in the lower 48. However, my Pittsburgh roots continue to define my values and my outlook.
Q: What drew you to work with photography as a medium?
I discovered I loved photography during the summer of 1989 when I moved freely between West and East Germany with my first good camera. It was fascinating to observe, through the lens, the contrast between the two countries, one country split in two and separated by a wall.
Q:What project are you working on now?
Greenland's Ice Sheet. I began this project in the summer of 2015. It was the coldest summer in forty years and the weather was poor for flying but perfect for shooting the ice fjord by boat. The ice cap is experiencing significant melting events, creating lakes and rivers where none existed before. I’ve completed the first part of the series and will head back to Greenland July of 2017 for another attempt to shoot the ice cap from the air.
Q: What is emptiness? How does it exist in nature?
I think of emptiness and wholeness as one in the same. Emptiness can have negative implications but I think that in pure emptiness, there is peace. Nature is what exists apart from humanity; it exists with or without us. I’m interested in the fundamental emptiness that nature presents. In the emptiness, I sense time, memory and the present moment colliding within a context of connectedness, wholeness.
Q: How do you decide where geographically to work within each series?
I’m fascinated with locations that present an emptiness and reveal little in the way of present or past. When I focus on form, color, line, texture...and the abstraction in these places, I sense timelessness and at once, better know the value of time and the significance of memories.
Q. How do you think about memory and time?
Both time and memory are my most important possessions. As time accelerates year after year, memories become increasingly more meaningful, bringing into view the unpredictable nature of time, which may seem the opposite of its essence. Time is predictable, but it's also not so, either moving too slow or too fast, but memories are timeless. The more I think about time and memory, the more I recognize their delicate dance.
Q: What contemporary photo-based artists and non-photographers interest you?
Photo-based: Aaron Siskind, William Eggleston, Bernd and Hilla Becher. Other Artists: Richard Serra, Agnes Martin, James Turrell. Ellsworth Kelley, Helen Frankenthaler, Cy Twombly
Q: Do you work on one series at a time? Or do you find that you discover additions to each series in new places?
Though my projects are location based, visual themes emerge that will provide the opportunity to expand the projects in the future.
Q: They have a way of blurring scale so one must closely observe whether this is a macro or micro view.
We are servants to our habits of perception. William Blake points to this as he begins Auguries of Innocence with: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour.”
Q: Do you shoot from the ground or from the air?
Both. Shooting from the air is incredible but there are so many factors that can affect the success of a project.
Q: How about scale of your work? You recently have moved into a much larger scale?
I want to present the work as an object where the photograph becomes secondary and I can achieve this at large scale. Although my subject matter is altogether abstract from a distance, it can be examined up close to better understand what it is.