The Art of Science: Scenes from the Deep, Distant Past

Alison Carey, Ordovician Period, 440-500 Mya, 2005

Alison Carey, Ordovician Period, 440-500 Mya, 2005

Alison Carey’s photographs of “Organic Remains of a Former World” are among the standouts of the current show at the National Academies of Science, Imagining Deep Time.  Carey uses a mix of sculpture, installation and photography to conjure up visions of ancient marine environments from each of the seven periods in the Paleozoic era.

To call these pieces small, murky and brownish would be accurate, but would barely hint at their evocative power and beauty.  Carey uses scientific data about the different periods and consults illustrations of their flora and fauna. The artist says that she was searching for uncharted territories in an era where little of the globe remains unexplored.

“In my search for a location that has not been photographed, I look to the Earth’s ancient past, a world that existed millions of years ago. I am drawn to this space because it is absent from human recollection and experience. Through my photographs, I offer the viewer a glimpse into a primitive landscape that has since been eroded or erased.”

Carey sculpts her creatures and rock formations out of clay, fires them and then submerges them  in the water of multiple 55-gallon aquariums. She then photographs them in her studio using a large format view camera, and prints them as contemporary ambrotypes using 9 x 23” black glass that she hand-coats with silver gelatin emulsion.

She adds that “the organic nature of this process adds to the rendition of these watery scenes by the serendipitous appearance of bubbles, streaks and obliterated areas of darkness.”

If you can’t make it to Imagining Deep Time (on view at the NAS in Washington, DC until January 15, 2015), you can see more of Alison Carey’s work at her website.

 

 

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