Bicoastal is a series of small collage inspired pieces using source photography taken from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the U.S. The series began developing after a recent trip to the West Coast – the first time I’d traveled such a great distance across the country as an adult. It was also the first time I was conscious of such a drastic shift in my surroundings and the resulting change in my general mood and perception within just a few hours, quickly transitioning from dreary, freezing Boston to bright and arid Phoenix. I’ve always had a fascination with this concept: how the weather and landscape one inhabits can so powerfully influence the way they see themselves and the world in general. While I was taking my reprieve from a harsh New England winter in the desert, the towering snow banks and early nightfall continued to exist and awaited my return.
After filing through the photos taken from my trek along the Pacific Coast Highway, I pulled out a few that resonated with me and served as the best representations of a certain type of landscape, chunk of time, or mood that I wanted to extract from my experiences and explore. I started to consider collaging fragments of images from not only this experience but incorporating those from past experiences I’d archived – images I felt were worth keeping but had no clear purpose at the time. The collage process would allow me to see how each fragment could be transformed in mood and appearance when placed alongside another. It would also allow for an alternate interpretation of natural elements, carving out plant and landscape in a way that made them difficult to name – ideally left as unidentifiable, organic matter.
In slicing and rearranging these images of leaves, flowers, snow and sky that I’ve collected over the past 3-4 years, I hoped to evoke a complex and ambiguous emotional response composed of simpler, more single-note elements. This series aims to remove various geographical locations from their original contexts and recombine them in sometimes jarring ways, presenting an all-encompassing view of drastically differing climates, times of day, and landscapes that are constantly in flux and existing simultaneously. Each piece presented me with the challenge of creating harmony from multiple discordant images of nature, and as I worked I became increasingly concerned with making these opposing forces appear as if they flowed into one another and existed in the same seamless, imagined space – in the 3rd piece a desert palm is lit by the sunlight of a clear blue New England sky and in the 4th a large jungle leaf from Brazil encompasses a leafless oak tree from New Hampshire.
Initially I planned to limit my sources to those from the U.S., but this constraint proved unmanageable when many of the images I wanted to include from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in NY were of tropical plants from Africa and South America. As I progressed I decided to discard the earlier rules that were stifling me and use whatever imagery I wanted to. The only condition was that it had to serve as the right emotional counterbalance to the other elements of the painting. I kept the name “bicoastal” as it still seemed to convey the idea of unifying opposing forces.
I’m interested in the relationship between emotions and sensory perception – how emotionally charged the sight of a cloud or a snow-covered field can be for us and how we each think and feel different things when we perceive them yet universal responses can also be observed (i.e. when most people see a clear blue sky it makes them feel happy and when they see a gloomy sky it makes them feel sad). Here, I’m specifically limiting it to visual perception of the natural world, but the ways we project our internal world onto our external one are endless.
As the project came to a close, I found myself viewing the images as placeholders for people, perceptions and memories in addition to the natural phenomena they depicted – pulling out metaphors increasingly tied to our internal worlds. I saw a collection of individuals each with their unique outlooks, cultures, emotional climates, either clashing or integrating with one another, or even the contradictory thoughts and emotions constantly at war within each of us. On a personal level, they melded visual markers of my various memories and broke the time barrier between each experience, destroying the linear flow of chronological events. Most notably and consistently throughout the painting process, they evoked for me a sense of feeling untethered and placeless, followed by the instinctive struggle to ground oneself in response.