all images by Luís Branco
‘The hands want to see the eyes want to caress.’ – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I continue to sort through, edit and find new meaning in the almost 3000 images I made with Luís Branco in Portugal last fall. The images were taken during multiple photo shoots at locations all over the Alentejo region – the Rio Sever, a beautiful lake near Marvão, the magical Pego do Sino and the dry reservoir at Santa Susanna. I keep finding images that have meaning for me, I print them at different sizes and install them in my studio. The images I am posting here were all shot in the Pego do Sino (the Canyon of the Bells) near the Obras Artist Residency. This special place resonates for me in many ways – I first visited the upper part of the canyon in 2015 with Noortje and Akiko and Cydney and I have returned to this place every time I am at Obras. It is a beautiful and mystical place. Last fall was the first time I actually entered into the deep part of the canyon. Luís and I shot all these images with the red fabric down in there. The energy and the beauty of this place is palpable.
My friend Jack Quinan and I were talking about our mutual interest in phenomenology and Jack asked “do you know the book titled The Eyes of the Skin by Finnish architect and writer Juhanni Pallasmaa?” Surprisingly I did not, but I looked it up right away. In this little gem of a book Pallasmaa argues against the hegemony of the visual sense and argues for other modes of perception. I love this idea of “the eyes of the skin” as an artist, as someone committed to the perception of space, to the performance and representation of space – yes our skin has eyes!
In the introductory chapter titled Touching the World Pallasmaa states:
“Touch is the sensory mode that integrates our experiences of the world and of ourselves. Even visual perceptions are fused and integrated into the haptic continuum of the self; my body remembers who I am and how I am located in the world. My body is truly the navel of my world, not in the sense of the viewing point of the central perspective, but as the very locus of reference, memory, imagination and integration. All the senses, including vision, are extensions of the tactile sense; the senses are specializations of skin tissue, and all sensory experiences are modes of touching, and thus related to tactility. Our contact with the world takes place at the boundary line of the self through specialized parts of our enveloping membrane.”
There is a lot of touch and skin in this sequence of images. The red fabric acts as another sheath or ‘skin’ for my body. It is as if my skin and the red membrane of the cloth are touching the world, the water, the rocks, and the air in the canyon. My skin and my body are obviously those of an older woman, there is vulnerability and contrarily vibrancy and sensuality in this old skin and the red fabric ‘touching the world.’
“The skin is the oldest and most sensitive of our organs, our first medium of communication, and our most efficient protector. Even the transparent cornea of the eye is overlain by a layer of modified skin. Touch is the parent of our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. It is the sense which became differentiated into the others, a fact that seems to be recognized in the age-old evaluation of touch as ‘the mother of the senses.’ – Ashley Montague “Touching: the Human Significance of the Skin,” pg. 3.
These images from the Pego do Sino are a little dramatic. I blame this on the mythical deusa / goddess who is supposed to abide in this canyon. I have heard she is fierce and strong and I feel a special affinity with her. I will also blame it on the ‘eyes of the skin.’