Laurie Tümer Statement
I'D RATHER LOOK AT CLOUDS
"…Here we go alone and like it better so...Now lying recumbent…this incessant making up of shapes and casting them down…this incessant ringing up and down of curtains of light and shade, this interminable experiment with gold shafts and blue shadows, with viewing the sun and unveiling it, with making rock ramparts and wafting them away – this endless activity…One should not let this gigantic cinema [of clouds] play perpetually to an empty house…"
On Being Ill
This series began from my bed photographing clouds tripping along the horizon of the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, home to Los Alamos National Laboratory. I had just moved to my small studio perched high that I’d cobbled together over several years. My casual cloud gazing immediately became part of a pain-lessening arsenal - and how lucky for me living in an amphitheatre with an unexpected generous subject – a nearly 24-hour a day theater. The title of this series comes from an exchange with a friend about war games – maybe it was about The Force Unleashed. I asked my friend if he played it. He answered wryly, “I’d rather look at clouds.”
In 1998 I began illustrating Silent Spring using a technique that, to me, echoed both the scientific and poetic quality of Rachel Carson’s writing. I found a muse in the environmental scientist Richard Fenske and his surprising research photographs used in safety training programs for farmworkers who use pesticides – the images not only make workers aware that these particles migrate, but it motivates them to wear protective gear and follow rigorous decontamination procedures when they return home. Using his fluorescent tracer technique, my photo-illustrations show how environmental poisons find their way off the farm and into our homes and on and in our bodies. Many images in this series provide an update to Silent Spring, illustrating new studies including the linking of breast cancer to environmental toxins. Titled Naked Statistics, these images refer to the fact that one in eight women in the U.S. will experience breast cancer in their lifetime. Women with breast cancer are five times more likely to have pesticides and other pollutants in higher concentrations in their blood samples.
In addition to the still photographs in this series, I make large animated lenticular photographs that allow viewers to experience the seen and unseen in the same photograph.
I have always thought of these images as expressing the pleasure of photographic seeing and also how we see, with always a little of ourselves in view. Most of these images were taken in my garden - leisurely meanderings.
Years have passed since I completed this series. When I began to experience awful burning neuropathy in my feet where it has become difficult to stand, I thought back to these photographs and this time when I was able to stand for long periods and wear garden shoes or any shoe. They seem almost a foreshadowing. How can a photograph do this? l like how writer Leslie Marmon Silko says about this - that photographs register "ambient bursts of energy...and it is still too early for us to understand or interpret all the information a photograph may contain."
WORKS ON ROCK
These images are printed directly on rock -- they are black and white gelatin prints on rock surfaces. I began this project after a trip to see the Tassili rock art in a remote area of North Africa. As I printed this single image of myself on over 1,000 river rocks, I felt like a graffiti artist who writes their name in as many ways as possible and in as many places as possible, to declare that "I was here."
The photograms of botanical subjects on granite and other stone came later, during the years I pressed flowers from my garden.