Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chuck Hemard

Chuck Hemard, a Georgia based Photographer introduced to me by David Wolf has been working on an interesting series of landscapes depicting highway off-ramps in multi-framed large format panoramas. Hemard's initial interest in the highway landscape started as a child as he explains "As a young person, I imaged riding a dirt bike or skateboard into these sculpted spaces. I still feel a sense of significance and potential exists in this public, yet off-limits space. I began to photograph these places in order to clarify my personal connection to these spaces and refine what this sense of importance could be."

Delving in and further analyzing his connection to these spaces through photography, Chuck discovered, "Departures and Junctions considers the push and pull as humans interact with the natural world. This series is at once analytical of somewhat recent human development and an insightful investigation of American culture through an examination of people, nature, and cultural markers. The work utilizes the roadside environment to provide insight concerning our place in the natural world as participants in contemporary American society. How are highway interchanges designed to withstand loss and time? Are these spaces more than byproducts of man’s conveniences? It even makes me consider how primordial are our attempts at progress truly are."

Further explaining and clarifying, Hemard states, "The notion of the crossroads seems too romantic in contemporary times for today’s busy interstate and highway systems. It is often overburdened with the traffic and mass transit that drives the distribution portion of American capitalism. Only a generation ago some of these very intersections would have been rural enough to carry such romantic undertones provided by such a title. The more recent development of land at intersections functions as a cultural and evolutionary marker of sorts. For instance, our need to mark the land with a badge of regional culture is seen in Above Gravel (Phoenix Airport). Acting as a larger-than-life greeting for the air traffic, the design would have not been necessary on such a scale prior to affordable air travel. Does this offer a glimpse of what is to come as air travel develops with each generation? Are vehicle grounded passers-by feeling left out or stranded from the optimal view? In a way, this space visually adds the z-axis to the contemporary crossroads."

"In Bunny, a sea of kudzu threatens to engulf its entire environs including a residential dwelling, and the local government has intervened just in time to hold back the tide of green leaves. A large form looming on the right mimics a rabbit, seen here not as one of nature’s furry friends, but instead as a menace, threatening to pounce on the small house. Is this nature telling us to respect her presence, subtly or otherwise? Should we feel awe towards her? Here, as well as in other images, the roadside at this junction speaks about a more universal set of conditions found in life."

Bunny, Reverence, and The Beginning are being exhibited this fall at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, in Atlanta in a group exhibition entitled Responding to Home.

From Top to Bottom:

Mound Ideal
The Beginning
Above Gravel

All images © Chuck Hemard