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“Unexpected Connections” is a new, online exhibition series that reviews past solo exhibits in a new light by merging two or three artists’ works in this alternative space. This particular series is in search of unexpected connections between diverse artworks following distinct inspirations. With it, we look to offer a broader look at the world by how it’s interpreted through visual art.
“Unexpected Connections: Dara Larson and Catherine Lottes”
Artist Statements from Exhibits
The works in this exhibition represent over twenty years of travel-inspired art making. I have traveled extensively as a component of my art research, service learning and as an educator leading international study courses for students at Alverno College.
Travel has become a major component of my art subject matter. In multi-media work I explore the themes of place, process and philosophy that result from long and short-term immersion across multiple cultures.
Places in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia and New Zealand have become integral to my depictions of the environment, natural phenomena, land use and cultural history associated with the relationship between people and nature. Many of my images recall sensory perceptions of travel to specific places. While I have inhabited many sites temporarily, I feel that my experiences of place inhabit me permanently through memory and reoccurring art imagery.
Processes and media learned while visiting art studios, cooperatives, museums and galleries have become a large component of my work. I have investigated many cultural art forms to gain understanding of materiality, concept, ritual and formal strategies associated with artistic choices across cultures. This focus on process has impacted my experimental approach to materials and techniques in handmade paper, printing, surface design on cloth and paper and most recently upon photo collage from digital documentation.
The history of culturally specific media honors local resources and traditions of craft. During my visits to studios and workshops I have developed a deep appreciation for beauty and cultural meaning in materials and rituals associated with creativity. My work either depicts global media or uses adaptations of the media as a point of departure for my own imagery.
My philosophy of using global content gathered during travel is to respectfully document my perceptions as an observer standing momentarily within a culture. My goal is to share the story of global art and creativity linked to place, history, environment, social issues, and the struggle to keep traditions alive amidst globalization. My conceptual development focuses upon the importance of deeply studying other cultures in order to gain insights about the place we call home.
While we need not travel further than a few blocks in our city to expand our horizons, the further I get from home, the more I need to study and immerse myself in local creativity. I have been honored to be invited into the homes and studio spaces of artists and families around the world. I have witnessed the power and dedication to telling stories of place. I have an extreme amount of gratitude for the insights I have gained about merging life and art to better the existence of individuals and communities.
This exhibition represents a small part of two decades of globally-inspired artwork. While much of my work is a direct depiction of my travel experience, almost all of my work integrates or refers to vistas, principles or beliefs I have experienced across the globe. The selected works are dedicated to the creative spirit of artists who chronicle their insights about their worlds so that we may be allowed to inhabit their lives momentarily.
The camera captures light, and color that is reflected on forms in nature and the environment. However, our personal internal lenses can also add more layers of meaning and emotive value to the images.
I have been creating photographic fine art images for over 40 years, but about six years ago I inadvertently discovered the fascinating multi-dimensional world of patterns that are created by mirroring images together to create symmetrical images from single source images taken in nature. I believe the attraction to symmetry is innate as we and many of life’s creatures are essentially bilaterally symmetrical. Symmetry seems to give us a sense of balance and harmony as well as evoke a more spiritual or transcendent response within us. The “spirits” or “totems” often do not reveal themselves in the image until after it has been mirrored to itself.
Art has often been called a mirror to nature – in this case nature is mirroring itself to create (or reveal) a more mystical spiritual presence that is already there, but unseen without the mirror. However, much like Rorschach tests (which were later found to not actually be a valid test to determine mental illness), they can be interpreted differently by every viewer, depending on their personal experiences and inclinations.
Excerpt from The Original, Nature, and Immortality of the Soul. A Poem
by Sir John Davies, 1569-1626
Since Nature fails us in no needful thing,
Why want I Means my inward Self to see?
Which Sight the Knowledge of my self might bring,
Which to true Wisdom is the first Degree.
That Pow'r which gave me Eyes the World to view,
To view my self infus'd an inward Light,
Whereby my Soul, as by a Mirror true,
Of her own Form may take a perfect Sight.
But as the sharpest Eye discerneth nought,
Except the Sun-beams in the Air do shine;
So the best Soul, with her reflecting Thought,
Sees not her self, without some Light Divine.
Quotes from Hermann Hesse, 1877-1962:
Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.
A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. …