We close out our features on our online Corona exhibition with the powerful and graphic work of Dawn Watson. Message from Grace is a beautiful and unique vision of landscape with a call to action. Her work implores us to look, to experience, to take time and see what is around us. We asked her to be part of our online exhibition because her work shines a light both externally into the world around us, and emotionally radiates the soul of who we are in it. We asked her a few questions about her work, and what is next for her.
How does light play in your work?
I’m drawn to the play at the edge where light and shadow meet. My still life work takes advantage of the natural light that enters my home studio. The incremental, constant change of angle and intensity of direct sunlight or the softer fill of an overcast day means I need to be ever aware and responsive to what will best serve the mood or message. Being outside in the landscape requires the same intuitive presence as I am at the mercy of multiple elements but light is always the first defining aspect that I seek.
The Griffin featured Message from Grace in 2018. Your series plays on light and a new way of seeing our natural world. How did you find your palette to showcase the world around us?
While doing some research, I saw in a photo the color combination of brilliant blues and golds used for the external skin of the Mission satellites orbiting in space. By inverting my photographic image, these same tones appeared in the inverted field with little to no deeper adjustment to the color tone in the images. The reveal of the color negative upended my understanding of the natural elements. Sky became ground, sand a glacier, reflection a galaxy, invasive plant species delicate lacy delights, the brilliant sun a black hole.
In all of your images the combination of science, nature and visual engagement really invites us as viewers to experience and be thoughtful about our shared inhabited spaces. What is your hope for us as viewers to take away from your work?
There is this conversation of call and response in and with the natural world, each other, and the larger human community. How we respond now directly affects our future. Due to excessive human activity, weather intensifies, the world shape shifts and the familiar disappears. What is our relationship to loss, inequities, constant change? Where do we find shelter, sustenance and solace? How do we define beauty? What is its worth as the natural world morphs from the familiar to the unrecognizable and uninhabitable? My hope is this work inspires reflection that motivates action.
In this time of Corona, how do you find light in your day?
Forced confinement has been both a difficult challenge and, paradoxically, a gift granting me the chance to be still, to be quiet. Different each day, I track the passage of time as the sunlight makes it’s marks along the walls, ceiling, floors and furniture. I step outside often, turning towards the sun watching how it catches in the trees, how wind plays with the light.
What is next for you creatively? What are you working on?
Two new series have been gestating for a while. I was unsure of what I wanted to say and thought it best to let things be for a bit. Not until very recently did I reach some clarity. Drift/Bound visually translates my visceral response to how disconnected we feel as recent events have rocked our world. The crumpled, misshapen forms in my prints drift against fields of light and dark, unmoored, as we are, from any familiar world. ReRe is a still life series using saved plastic packaging material, natural elements and found or collected objects. It asks do we repurpose, recycle, redirect, reform and renew or let go of what remains?
About Dawn Watson –
After twenty-five years as a professional dancer, Dawn Watson shifted her artistic practice to photography, finding affinity in the visual storytelling offered by both live performance and the captured image. Watson’s photographic renderings continue to explore form, space, light, movement and storytelling, as she did as a performer. Nature serves as her muse, her subject of concern, a source of solace and healing.
Watson studied photography at the Maine Media Workshop, the ICP (International Center of Photography), as well as the Santa Fe Workshop. Her work has been featured online and in print, including in Lenscratch and The Hand magazine. She has exhibited her photographs and artist books throughout the United States and Europe including the Albrecht-Kemper Museum, A Smith Gallery, Center for Fine Art Photography, PhotoPlace Gallery, Ph21 Gallery, Tilt Gallery, Tang Teaching Museum, and in solo exhibitions at The Griffin Museum of Photography at Greater Boston Stage Company, the Los Angeles Center for Photography and Rhode Island Center for Photographic Arts. Her work is held in private collections and at The Lodge at Woodloch.