Artist: Serge J-F. Levy
In the winter of 2018 I was awarded an Arizona Commission on the Arts Artist Research and Development Grant to continue working on “2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla.” The project is a visual account of how my life and experiences in Arizona are inflected by living afar from my ailing and aging parents. There are many photographs in this project that are made in urban settings and within domestic spaces; environments that are familiar to me and that correspond to my experience of growing up and living in New York City for the first 39 years of my life.
A central challenge I have undertaken in this project has been to immerse myself in the wilderness spaces of Arizona. At one point in my life I treated “nature” as a cure-all of sorts; a place I would visit hoping that my emotional pain and concerns would be absorbed by forest greens or that they would disappear beyond the horizon of an open vista. Since spending six years in the desert Southwest—amidst a rugged landscape layered with thorns, vipers, and caliche—my relationship to wilderness has quickly evolved. Instead of seeking healing or release from my pain, I have discovered that these places—the vegetation, the fauna, and the bedrock—can appear to me as symbolic embodiments of my emotional life. I now witness my feelings manifest outside of my mind; at a safe distance and in a form that is easier to endure.
The following images were made during the first four months of 2018. They are a handful of photographs drawn from a larger body of work that is still in progress.