My images are often inspired by elements of the landscape; I painted them as a teenager, encouraged by my artist mother. But now I see landscape as an invitation to the viewer to enter imaginary worlds, ones which may suggest past or future visions, offshoots of the moment that the shutter clicked. Abstract patterns on boat hulls (Waterline/Overboard) or dying agave fronds (Agave Night Visions/Agave Climate Change/Agave in Turmoil) have suggested to me that imprints of surrounding vistas from the perspective of these inanimate surfaces are etched upon them. For instance, I imagine “what if” a withered agave frond were to record evidence on its surface of the climate change that has contributed to its demise as it folds to the ground. Once the idea is there, the more I look, the more I see patterns and colors that might constitute such evidence. My job is to bring a record of that evidence to fruition. Not to dwell on it here, developing a scientific idea to the point of publishing a research paper was a very similar process for me.
I have also used perspective and scale to magnify tree stumps into craggy cliffs (Moonlit, Moonlight Burning) and small waterfalls into mountain cascades (Climate Falls and Planet Falls). I pause at these natural wonders to make images of them in order to preserve their existence and enlarge their importance as records of what natural beauty can be. Here I wish to set apart their beauty from threats of climate change and political and cultural turmoil by keeping their settings pristine, their surroundings otherworldly, their scale majestic. As I have unbound myself from representing reality, I have freely expanded the time of the image far beyond the duration of one shutter click, creating single images from tens or hundreds of frames. The advantage of the artist is to be able to recontextualize reality, allowing the imagination to take one to new places.
Some search for landscape vistas; I seek elements of the landscape within overlooked natural details. I am privileged to live near extraordinarily beautiful forests in western Connecticut and Massachusetts where I take daily hikes through woodlands past secluded streams. Cascading waters maintain life – rushing, breathing, aglow between the boulders. Growing over the tumbling rocks, the moss is fresh and varied. These images reveal small, hidden, enchanted waterfalls, but I have provided a larger, up close perspective to emphasize their importance to us. Although dream-like, they are real places that are not immune to the influences of global warming. In “Climate Falls”, I ask the question, “What happens when a magical refuge is imperiled by climate change? What will become of the solace that we now find there?” By intentionally making these landscapes otherworldly by augmenting their scale and light, and by envisioning the risks caused by thickening clouds, gathering smoke, and advancing fires derived from NASA galactic images, I aim to draw attention to their fragility. By picturing the implied threat at this precarious moment, I hope to increase respect for nature so that it might be preserved.
Images are presented as 20 x 20” archival pigment prints on Canson Infinity High Gloss Photo RC Paper in an acrylic float mount. The price is $800.
All images © Richard Alan Cohen
An Edge of Humanity Magazine Project
CURATOR | Joelcy Kay