Regan Golden, the artist behind the Conkling Gallery’s latest exhibition, came to speak about her work Monday. Her lecture included backstories for the pieces she had on display, as well as her other works and collections.
Golden’s works have an emphasis on ecology and the relationship between humans and nature. Her focus as of late has been in collage, and her projects have been created using previous works to develop new pieces.
The inspiration for Golden’s work comes from a forest that used to stand in Massachusetts, neighboring her grandparents’ land. It was because of this familial connection that she had a personal investment in the land and its wellbeing.
This forest is now gone but lives on in her works inspired by it. She described how the piece of greenery had functioned as an edgeland, a barrier between a suburban setting and something more abrasive, like railroad tracks or a quarry.
While being submerged in a natural setting certainly seems picturesque and perfect, Golden quickly discovered that it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. The mountain that the forest overlapped was steep and had no paths to walk on, and there were cat fishers (basically angry weasels) and spiders to contend with.
The only solace she could find was in the viewfinder of her camera. Somehow, looking through it offered some safety and separation from the realities of the natural world. Golden, a professor in art theory at the University of Minnesota, pointed out that this Cartesian perspective that the viewfinder provides is a staple within landscape art.
It helps to align the components of a scene in a way which is easy to read. Taking photos of a dynamic landscape transports those scenes into a different form, one that is in some ways more easily processed by the human mind.
Seeing a photo of a spider, in a relatively static pose, is considerably different than running into a freshly made web. It was this living, breathing experience that Golden sought to capture.
It took years for her to determine exactly what she wanted to do with these compiled works of art. They included photographs, sketches, and paintings that contained subject matter from the forest. She combined these with things she found in her own backyard.
It wasn’t large, but there was a small, sad edgeland that was often full of garbage from a nearby highway. She took advantage of the refuse as a medium, using it in some of her works. She painstakingly combined these past and present creations, cutting out fine details of photos to patch together new designs.
Golden did this over and over, altering the texture and composition of the pieces by crumpling, folding, cutting, pasting, painting, and overlaying the components until she felt that they represented a cohesive whole.
As a result, Golden has created multiple collections of works inspired by the ecological landscape around her. Her pieces are the colors of nature; vibrant green, yellow, lavender, brown, grey… all laid together in a way that emphasizes the beauty and confused clarity of the world around us.
Header photo by John Shrestha | MSU Reporter.