The callous winds fanning months of wildfires burned – white and desolate. While beyond the mountainside, the forest trees and cavern walls were quickly covered with an aftermath of unmistakable soot. It was the first in a series of occurrences to stir the spirits from the blackness of a heavy sleep.
As the air cleared, gatherings commenced and the night awoke with luminous globes falling in arcs from the starry abyss. The atmosphere echoed with anticipation and foreshadowed the arrival of imminent instruction from a distant constellation.’ – excerpt from the companion story by Antone Dolezal, published in A Place Both Wonderful and Strange, Fuego Books.
“The project takes place in the deserts of California and Nevada, a place that holds a fascinating history of secret government programs, passing transients and utopian communities. Here, these layers combine to compose the backdrop for a strange and imagined realm tracing the varying fragments that influence the evolution of modern-day myth and offer transcendence from the banal existence of daily life. Through my research, I began to see common myths shared between differing new religious movements that reside in the southwestern desert, and I traced some of these beliefs to 1940s and ’50s sci-fi movies and turn-of-the-20th-century astrological literature. Along with my own interactions with these groups I began to make portraits, landscapes and interpretive images based upon the varying realities I was coming into contact with. Much of my work is about how humans find meaning in life, how mythologies are formed and evolve and what the stories we create say about contemporary society. Through my subject matter, I gained entry to interpret and present my broader conceptual ideas. The American West has been highly romanticized through literature, movies and art. This work both parallels and critiques that dialogue. I was curious to add my own way of working into the conversation and began the project with a list of questions: What are the social components and environmental situations that produce utopian ideals? How do regional folklore, secret government programs and a heavy military presence influence the people living here, and how does that contribute to the emergence and growth of modern mythologies?
I favor photographic work that is complicated by a multi-genre approach. Part of this work is about looking at the history of a specific region—seeing how that history has been recorded and then reimagining it in a contemporary way. The way I am using the archive alongside my own portraits and landscapes references both the past and possible future. It’s a technique employed in magical realist literature, and when successful presents a realm where time is not linear and the magical and ordinary are one in the same. A lot of strange esoteric books and objects referencing religious beliefs impacted my approach to making this work. The films of the Unarius Academy of Science and the writings of Dane Rudhyar also inspired a portion of the project. I am engaged with art that provides the viewer with a nuanced and alternative understanding of its subject matter. Photography suggests other possible realities that can provide a powerful platform for gaining insight and empathy to the world around us. Doug DuBois and Susannah Sayler have had a significant impact upon my work and conceptual development. I’m also constantly reading fictional literature, philosophy and critical theory, and have recently become much more invested in cinema and science fiction.”
“Part of Fortune and Part of Spirit is an ongoing body of work revealing a world of religious practitioners whose beliefs embrace a complex tension between the scientific and the divine. Taking place in the deserts of California and Nevada – a region mythologized as a gateway to the cosmos – this work offers a constellation of photographs woven from the surreal and the rational and blends folklore of the American West alongside elements of science fiction cinema and new religious mythologies. Known as a haven for secret government programs, passing transients and utopian communities, this southwestern expanse composes the backdrop for an imagined realm that embodies the aspirations and uncertainties of a changing society.
My photographs are combined with documents and images acquired from government archives, as well as original manuscripts and texts tracing the origins of new esoteric religious movements. By favoring a layered narrative, this work traces varying fragments that influence the evolution of modern-day myth, illuminating the boundaries of belief and offering a meditation into the ideologies meant to eclipse the cycle of conventional life.”