Raw Umber

01/09/2009 - 02/07/2009

Artist Statement, Jody Hawk

My theory about becoming an artist is total immersion in the art world. Once I decided I wanted to be an artist, not a commercial photographer, I couldn’t stop myself. I expose myself through teaching, and full participation in the community— wherever I am. Presently I am a visiting artist teaching photography at the University of Akron.

I love photography, yet I hate to tie myself to one medium, thus I leave myself open to finding the solution to communicating any idea through whatever media can bring the idea to resolution. Because I am drawn to traditional photography and images derived electronically, most of my work is derived from these sources.

Much of my artwork investigates the vernacular landscape. Before 2006, my images primarily investigated the cultural landscape. I was fascinated by the ornamentation to a piece of property and how a person might create a personal landscape.

I have studied the writings about the vernacular by geographer, John Brinkerhoff Jackson, art historian, Lucy Lippard, and others. Landscape has a visual language, it reveals what we value, a cultural history. Topography can reveal a person's view of beauty and what is essential to them.

Through my images, I was particularly attracted to documenting property that was public, yet seemed to proclaim no owner. At graduate school I turned my attention to searching for things people left behind that were semi-permanent. These items seemed sculptural and sometimes architectural, yet temporal. Unlike sophisticated architecture, they were personal marks on the land.

When my grandmother was ill, I spent many days with her. My journey to visit her took me from northeast Ohio to south central Michigan where she lived in Jackson. I documented the landscape when on these trips and I began to record her oral history as well. Her mental state was not very coherent, so what she was able to tell me about were glimpses of her history, not the full story. This reminded me of my views of the landscape, with bits and pieces of the story, with the rest anticipated. Like the land in my images, my grandmother had been reduced in stature and was being overtaken by nature.

The connection between the landscapes and the sound began in the film I made, Portrait of Alta. In 2003, I began working on this short film using the words from my grandmother’s interviews. Included in the film are images of landscape, (both digitized film footage and digital video). The imagery was a moving journey using my grandmother's voice, music and moving water for the audio tracks.

I am continuing the investigation of sound and oral histories connected to the landscape as well as investigating the vernacular through image making.