As an artist with a reverent curiosity about the natural world, I am a constant collector of leaves, pods, shells and other commonplace wonders, mostly gathered near my home. A few years ago I began photographing the specimens in my collection, inspired in part by the carefully classified and preserved specimens in the vast collection of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Rather than simply documenting the specimens as objects, however, my intent is to convey the mysteries that I feel in their presence, exploring themes of fragility and endurance, beauty and decay, chance and destiny, life and death.
With these contradictions at heart, I begin with a simple background of white paper and the morning light from an east window. I have become acutely attuned to the daylight variations in my east bedroom and to the constantly shifting angle of the light as it moves across my floor in moments, hours, days and seasons. What pulls me to this little patch of sunlight is, most of all, my sense of play, delighting in the infinite, radiant, magical variations drawn in the shadows as I turn and place each object in the light. It is an intuitive, improvisational process, akin to drawing and collage, using a variety of props outside the image to alter the fall of light within my frame. I work quickly as the light moves, using my camera to preserve each specimen in an ephemeral framework constructed solely of light and shadow.
In the course of this process, I sometimes witness a startling moment when the mundane reality of the specimen undergoes a quiet metamorphosis. Here, outside of time, place, and scale, a tattered leaf or pressed wildflower enters an ambiguous, metaphorical realm. Hovering between specimen and poetry, science and art, the moment challenges me to measure the immeasurable: the inevitability of loss and the transcendence of beauty.
It seems that our experience is always viewed through the lens of memory. Time, with its constantly shifting layers, leaves its track, a sometimes ordered but often random trace, the fleeting evidence of the passage of our lives. Unlike a photograph that can be snapped in an instant and held forever suspended in the moment, a drawing marks the passage of time, its lines tracing a path across the page, while the mind follows the hand in its own reverie.
The Traces images are my attempt to blur the boundary between drawing and photography, between the suspended now and the ever-shifting vestiges of time. Working at an east window with morning light, I shoot through layers of scratched/drawn Plexiglas, glass and acetate, as if peering through levels of time and memory. Some of the images are then printed as negatives, as well as positives. I'm intrigued by the remarkable fact that every frame contains two images, each coiled inside the other, a moment inside a moment, a parallel universe inside another dimension of time. The rarely seen negative universe is full of surprises and often comes closer to my vision of a true drawing.
In addition to being an artist, I think I've always been part scientist, curious about the small natural wonders that I encounter each day and intrigued by scientists' efforts to collect, classify, define and measure everything from microscopic specs to vast ecosystems, from extinct birds to the human heart. We seem to be driven to measure things, yet no matter how precisely we measure, something vital always seems to be lost in the process, perhaps in the act of measuring itself.
The Weight portfolio uses old scales to reflect the futility of measurement. I love the simple design of the scales, their rusted faces and clock hands, their tippy balance mechanisms and innocent expectations of accuracy. If only it could be so simple. How much does a moment weigh? A word? A memory? A love? A loss? How can I reconcile the limitless presence of the world with my own fleeting and finite existence? These images are still life compositions balancing between stillness and life, poetic attempts to measure what is, in the end, always a mystery.
alchemies of the ordinary
conjuring second skins
pierced by eyes
those shocking transparent truths
of the mortal in the mythic
the immortal in the mundane
artifacts of the imagination
dancing in the fire of ancestors
drumming with wild desire
to spinning oneness
fooling no one
except the gods
we are shamans
performing secret rituals
pretending our childhoods away
daring the darkness
to take us.
julie meridian 2006
Specimens: a stirring of air, a shifting of light
This book is available in 2 editions (large hardcover and small softcover) and presents the complete Specimens portfolio. The book also includes an interview with Julie Meridian by Brooks Jensen, editor of LensWork magazine.
The Shadow Collector
The Shadow Collector explores the mysterious nature of shadows through the eyes of an artist and writer. With lyrical text and evocative photographs, it offers a glimpse into the rarely seen world of an artist's inspiration process and playfully relates this process to a child's experiences and fantasies.
The Old One and the Dragon
The Old One and the Dragon is a fairy tale about childhood and a metaphor about aging. Ultimately, it is a journey to a place where memory and imagination teach us how to invent and re-invent our lives.