The Mirror , one in a series of two, digital color print, 2017.
I found Echo in the landscapes and waterscapes of Portugal. She was there in the Rio Sever near the old Roman bridge. She was there in the mirror reflecting the river into my body. She was also there in the clear waters of the mountain lake. Her sorrow was evident in the dry reservoir at Santa Susana. Her eternal life force was there with me in the beautiful Pego do Sino.
My experiences with Echo are not exactly like the stories told by men of old, like Roman poet Ovid and Greek author Longus. Though certain aspects of their stories ring true for me. My Echo is not the nymph in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, who Juno curses so that she can only repeat the last few words spoken to her. Juno, always suspicious of Jupiter’s’ indiscretions, enacts this cruel punishment because Echo had distracted Juno with her chatter while Jupiter was having his way with another nymph. Ovid’s Echo then mistakenly falls in love with Narcissus, who can never love any other than himself. Narcissus’ rejection of Echo is her downfall and death, so that all that remains is her voice. Nor is my Echo the Echo in Longus’ Daphnis and Chloe. Longus’s Echo was taught by the Muses to sing and dance beautifully. Pan, god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, was jealous of Echo’s talents and upset that she would not bed him. He instructed his followers to kill her, rip her body and strew it throughout the earth. But Gaia/Earth shows her mercy and protects the shreds of Echo within the earth, so that Echo can sing on the Muses command, imitating any sound with perfect likeness.
In both of these stories, Echo is punished for having a “voice” by only being able to repeat the last few words she hears. If we rid Echo of her misogynist authors, there is nevertheless something very powerful. Echo is a sound, but she is also an answer, a mirror image, a parallel, a reiteration, a repetition, and a response. She is hidden from normal sight, a reverberation only available to a few.
I find that the last part of Longus’ story where she is strewn across the earth and protected by the Earth/ Gaia, somewhat parallels my own experiences in Portugal, where I have repeatedly “met” a mythical or divine feminine force or power in the landscapes and waterscapes of the beautiful Alentejo. My premise is that in these encounters with the feminine, I have been continually meeting and re-meeting echoes of different aspects of myself. My collaborator, photographer Luís Branco, has documented these meetings within Portugal’s beautiful environments of water and earth. His eye and the magic mirror of his camera have helped me see various aspects of feminine space held within myself, which would have been impossible for me to see on my own.
Luís and I have talked about the phenomenon of Echo in our work together. Our working process is intuitive and open-ended and in a sense enchanted and alchemical. We both respond to each site viscerally and emotionally. We use fabrics to cover, reveal or extend my body. We use actual mirrors as points of reference and reflection. We have created open narratives in these natural environments – echoing each other in gesture and image. The echo continually reverberates in multiple images and different sites, telling different stories. Echo herself might be revealed in these images, which in turn reveal “me” – my aging body, my face, my emotions. My Echo is older, she is strong, she is vulnerable, joyful, pensive, and sensual. She echoes life and death and transformation in these images.
In these four large images, I am partly submerged in the shallow waters of the Rio Sever near the small town of Portagem. In the first image, my head lies face up in the river near a rock, the transparent white gauze covering my face like a veil. In the two following images I bow forward and backward in the river, my form echoed in the Roman bridge. Finally I wrap my shoulders with the veil. Self-awareness, birth, death and vulnerability are revealed in these images in The River.
(four images above) The River, four in a series of four, digital color prints, 2017.
The Mirror and The Mirror Repeated
This series features two large images and one larger print with ninety-six small sequential images, all shot in the Rio Sever, this time using an antique mirror held against my body. I am clothed in white gauze; my form disappears as the oval shape of the mirror predominates. The mirror reflects the river and it’s environment into my body. The individual images in The Mirror Repeated are each the size of a typical small photo (4 x 6 inches). The small pictures are arranged and printed as one large double-pyramidal image. The repetition of the moving mirror within the pyramidal shape creates a strange and marvelous geometry. The mirror appears as a rotating oculus, window or eye, mimicking the process of photography itself.
The Mirror , two in a series of two, digital color print, 2017.
The Mirror Repeated, (96 serial images), pre-print mock up of a color digital print, 7.5 x 7.5 feet, 2017
This series of three photographs all portray the figure in a black dress in the lake formed by the Barragem da Apartadura in the northern Alentejo. In the first image, I am veiled in black gauze and I seem to float on a rock in the “mirror” of the lake, as the landscape reflects above me. In the two following images, I appear to hang upside down, pale and phantom-like as I float. My hands grab uselessly at the water while I submerge into the lake.
(three images above) The Lake, one, two and three in a series of three, color digital images, 2017.
The four images from Santa Susana have an eerie, magical beauty, very conscientious of the dearth of water. This reservoir is usually full and the old bridge covered by water. In 2017, because of extreme heat and draught in the Alentejo, the reservoir was almost completely dry, and the bridge exposed. In the first image my head is bent toward the strange orange earth and brackish water. The bridge casts a black horizontal shadow in front of me. In the second image, I approach the remaining water from the large swath of cracked, dry earth. In the following image, my profile, distinct and pensive, my shadow, and my dispersed reflection are visible in triplicate in the old mirror. In the fourth image, I hold the mirror with the bridge in the background; the mirror catches the intense light of the setting sun
(four images above) Santa Susana, (one, two, three and four in a series of four), color digital prints, 2017.
Pego do Sino
This series of four large color images were shot in the Pego do Sino (Canyon of the Bells) near Evoramonte. A pego is a “catch,” where waters are held during every season – providing habitat for plants and animals year-round. This deep canyon has a mystical, primeval quality. A local story describes a deusa, or goddess, who resides in this particular pego as a fierce protectress. In the first vertical image, I face the dark rock of the canyon, the grey and brown colors of my hair blending with the rock and the branches. In the second image, I pull the red fabric through the pego as if it were a cape or a train, then wrap the fabric around my body, and finally drag it toward me. The red cloth appears as an extension of the feminine and the water, vibrant and fluid, like life itself.
(Four images above) Pego do Sino, (one ,two, three and four in a series of four), color digital prints, 2017.
This large body of work has taken me some time to process – partly because “I” am such a presence in the work, and I think because there is a mystical, hidden aspect of the work. I have sorted through the images and their meaning over the last three months and I am very happy with these selected images and the stories they tell.
Thank you to the Obras Artist Residency for their generous support of this project. Thank you to Jennifer Heath for helping me to write about this work (if you only knew!). Thank you to Cydney Payton for continually helping me to “sort out” my work. I also want to thank Sama Alshaibi and Yana Payusova for making it possible for me to print this whole body of work.