Last night I went to the opening reception for photographer Tracy Longley-Cook’s show “Bearing Still.” Tracy graciously provided me with the cover image for Living Things, her photo “Cedar Waxwing.” We first met several years ago when we worked on ASU’s Visual Text Project, a collaboration between ASU’s MFA programs in visual arts and creative writing. In our project, Tracy photographed doll furniture at a range that destroyed concepts of scale, and I provided the object’s inner monologue in poems. “Dollhouse Triptych,” featuring a chair, curtains, and a teapot, turned out beautifully.
It was amazing to see a collection of Tracy’s work. She works with an 8″ x 10″ camera, taking enormous negatives, and her primary concern in this show was explorations of the natural world and the subconscious world. In one room, Tracy blew up several photos featuring a character she calls “The Scientist” (herself) as she works mostly with trees and vegetation, living, dead, and dormant. For these images, Tracy printed the photographs on a translucent paper and then backlit them for presentation, giving everything an eerie, sepia or gray glow.
The other room of the show featured two projects: a series of codex-like boxes with actual plants and plant elements pressed into wax on one side and glass etchings of plant diagrams on the other. It took me a while to realize that the codeces had square cuts on one panel in the back, and with the light shining from above, you could view another plant element through this square hole. They were beautiful, strange, almost Victorian.
The last set of prints were mounted on wood and then coated in a wax and resin mixture that gave each photograph a kind of blurriness as well as what Tracy called a “skin.” These photos seemed to mainly explore shape, line, pattern. My favorite print of the show featured The Scientist holding up a forked branch into an overwhelming visual field of storm clouds.
It was a fantastic show!