In researching artists whose practice combines photography and constructed landscapes, I found some interesting work by Vanessa Marsh. Last May, she had a solo exhibition, Always Close But Never Touching, at Ampersand International Arts in San Francisco. One of her pieces from that exhibition was Incomplete Highway On-Ramp, Seattle, WA.
Vanessa Marsh’s Artist Statement
It was in high school that I began to find my true artistic vision. It started with a basic photography class and my mom’s old Nikon E series camera. The next year I had my first car and would take long drives out onto the edges of the Seattle suburbs. Wandering through the damp richness of Washington State, I rediscovered a landscape I had grown up with; flooded fields and medians overgrown with blackberry bushes, evergreens dripping with water and rivers always at capacity. I found myself fearless with my camera, exploring defunct industrial sites, climbing past “no trespassing” signs, keeping my eye out for security guards and taking as many shots as I could. I’d let myself into abandoned houses decaying with mold and half heartedly boarded up, looking for the perfect pile of detritus to photograph; an open fridge in the backyard or a baby carriage overgrown with blackberry vines. These buildings were all on the edges of fields that within a few years would become Wal-Marts or a sea of cookie cutter houses, not yet torn down, but no longer functioning as they were originally intended. They were places where I shouldn’t have been but where there was no one left to tell me to get out.
The idea of spaces between meanings became a fascination for me whether regarding the physical landscape, in considering memory or in making art. I think about ways that my art can tell a truth and yet be rooted in imagination simultaneously. My practice of model building began as a means to create a certain kind of photograph, an image that was at once real and surreal. As I worked more with miniatures I realized that the experience of looking into a model was similar to the feeling of being in abandoned places: of being an unintended visitor in a place that is at once somewhere and nowhere.
The models are built referencing snap shots and many details are filled in from my own imagination. When I build the models I am thinking of the places I’ve explored on the outskirts of Seattle, places on the brink of evolution and extinction – between meanings.
Building the models is an attempt to fully embrace my own sentimentality of where I grew up; the home where I no longer live. The environment where I feel the most comfortable yet choose not to be. The models are about recreating something important again that has been deemed unusable and outdated. In building them I am creating on a miniature scale a part of my own history, exploring the ways in which memory and identity are tied not only to location but also to one’s own imagination.
For an interview with Vanessa Marsh by Matthew Hughes Boyko: Click Here