Some additional words from artist Mary Lang

Kingston artist Mary Lang discusses images from her current exhibition

I wanted to show that there is a through thread which links all of our experiences, like beads on a string, and that there is an equivalency to majestic landscapes and ordinary backyards if they are perceived in the same way, with the same freshness. Those ordinary images are also invitations to the viewer to slow down and really look. If I can capture someone’s attention with the more dramatic images, maybe they will give me the benefit of the doubt and look harder at the quotidian ones.

Lang_United Flight 790, over South Dakota looking down at the Missouri River, 2016

United Flight 790, over South Dakota looking down at the Missouri River

It is the topography, of course, that is so remarkable, but I also think it is the combination of the elements, both the weather-like elements and the formal, space and line elements. And the light. And the snow and ice which make it more like a drawing than a photograph. I always book the window seat on airplanes because I just love the beauty of the land we fly over. In order to title it, I had to look back at my calendar to see which flight that was, and then go on the United website to see the flight path, and then calculate how far into the flight I was. Then I looked at an analog map, and found the same river landscape configuration on the map, then googled aerial photos of South Dakota, and bingo! there it was. Taken from a different angle, at a different season, but at least I could identify the location.

Lang_Binny’s front yard, Bradford Lane, New Boston, NH, 2017

Binny’s front yard, Bradford Lane, New Boston, NH

That intersection and the yard are in front of an historic house in New Boston, but that isn’t what’s important. It was more the geometry of the elements and the space – the tree, the bush, the telephone pole, the little details of the road sign. Like the soccer nets, the details make the space both more full and more empty at the same time, and I like being able to ask people to look at both the details and the space. I think that photo is almost more for my friends, who have spent many years gathering in that yard. The next year Binny had died, so we don’t gather there anymore.

Lang_Spider web, Rail Trail between Northampton and Hadley, MA, 2018

Spider web, Rail Trail between Northampton and Hadley, MA

I am a fog person. I am drawn to it because it makes the landscapes softer and more indeterminate and evokes some uncertainty. In a simple way, it makes them more mystical. I am also very much a morning person, so if one is up at 5 am, one is likely to be able to photograph fog. Many people were on the rail trail that morning, and those spider webs were all along the train bridge. And everyone couldn’t stop taking pictures. But my photograph makes one feel like it is just you, the viewer, held in the tenuousness of that web, with the tiny droplets illuminated each by each, becoming more and more invisible as they stretch across the space, with the mystical indeterminate land in the distance. That one in particular still stops my mind every time I look at it.

Lang_Soccer net and backyards, late summer, Auburndale, MA, 2019

Soccer net and backyards, late summer, Auburndale, MA

I think it is the quality of the space itself which stops my mind almost every time I look at it. I have photographed the basic “landscape” of the soccer net and backyards at least 100 times over the years. There is something about the open space and the forms and elements – the net, the ball, the swing set, the slide in the further, hidden yard, that all combine to stop time for me, every time I look. After years and years of taking basically the same picture, one time the elements – the time of day, the light, the color, the shadows – all fell into place, like pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope.

And here are a few of the ones that aren’t hanging on the wall…


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