In 2006 I received a grant from The Joan Mitchell Foundation to document thirty acres of woods in Western Massachusetts prior to its transformation into a subdivision. I believed that I could preserve the woods in pictures, but once the development began, the destruction was so monumental—a complete grading of the hillside and removal of all trees—that the idea of preserving the forest in pictures seemed naive and inadequate. The hundreds of digital photographs that I took in the forest and the detailed drawings that I made in the studio failed to capture the complexity of even this small patch of woods sandwiched between a housing development and a gravel pit. The forest appeared only as a scenic backdrop: a flat, seamless space without a focal point.
To disrupt the continuity of the image and the illusion of an impenetrable forest that it produced, I cut into the photographs by hand using an x-acto knife following the contours of every form. The incised photographs are as much objects, as they are images, with each cut disrupting the illusion of space and revealing the materiality of the photograph itself.
While it takes only a second to take the picture, it takes weeks to cut, and this process yields new information about the plants and trees on the mountain that went unnoticed at first glance. Although this entire process strengthens my understanding of the place, it weakens the actual images. The cut photographs slowly fall apart mirroring the entropy and decay of the woods.
The shapes and textures I observe while altering the photographs then provided material for the graphite drawings of debris that I imagine will eventually slide down the slope of the mountain. The muddled figure and ground relationships in the drawings and the photographs reflect my ambiguity towards the future of this forest that is too small to be wilderness and too big to be a backyard.
Through this series of works, I would like to open up new ways of thinking about our relationship to the woods just at or before its end.
Artist Bio / CV
Regan Golden is an artist, writer and co-founder of the collaborative, Drawn Lots. Recent exhibitions include Groundswell at Illinois State University and Clear Cut at Gallery 44 in Toronto. Golden's work has been exhibited at Harvard University's Fisher Museum in Petersham, Massachusetts; Gallery 400 in Chicago, Illinois; The Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Rochester Art Center in Rochester, Minnesota; and The Cue Foundation in New York, New York. She has received fellowships from The Core Program at The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and The Stone Summer Theory Institute at The Art Institute of Chicago. In 2010, Golden received a Long-term Ecological Research Grant in the Arts from the National Science Foundation in support of her research at the Harvard Forest into the different ways that artists and scientists depict ecological change in the woods.