Paffenrath Slough near Muscoda
The portfolios presented here explore, in different ways, my response to the natural landscape of the upper Midwest. I am intrigued by how it, like all landscapes, holds multiple meanings which change over time, depending on the cultural lens through which we look, and our own shifting perspectives.
Each project began as a response to “place” and the question what do we actually see when we look at a landscape?
Spirituality and Place explores what space we consider sacred, as experienced in everyday life and landscape. The project can be seen in its entirety here.
Ukiyo-e Wingra, Prairie, and Positive Negative each present color work exploring aspects of the Wisconsin landscape from different perspectives. The views in Ukiyo-e Wingra, which were made at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and adjacent Wingra woods, are inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e tradition. Prairie is a selection of photos about the evolution of a suburban back yard into a small prairie during the 18 years I lived with it. Positive Negative brings specimens from that prairie into the studio to examine their sculptural qualities and the tensions and synergies of opposites.
Driftless River is a portrait of the lower Wisconsin as it flows through the Driftless Area between Prairie du Sac and the Mississippi River.
This, my latest project, documents the Wisconsin River as object — a remarkable complex of sloughs, oxbow ponds, legacy prairies, bluffs, barrens, and constantly shifting sandbars. It also explores the river as symbol, an equally remarkable complex of meanings, some which link to our earliest cultural memories.
Images of a sacred River of Life and Tree of Life, for example, are familiar icons in landscape art, and exist as subtexts throughout Driftless River.
While such symbols conjure memories of a lost Eden, the nature I photograph is something closer-at-hand, of reduced circumstance perhaps, and everywhere human-affected -- in other words, the nature with which we actually live.
Although Driftless River in parts implies an undercurrent of damage, I'd like to think that my photos might also bring a measure of hope. There are places of peace and renewal within our reach. Maybe the river can yet carry us to a new Arcadia, or at least help us imagine one.
© 2022 by Richard Maciejewski
Rich Maciejewski, July, 2022