Bear Kirkpatrick Statement

Artist Statement
As a very young boy I went deaf and was able to hide this handicap for a year by learning to read lips. This flaw gave me power to witness: in a world without sound, and with sight as my primary sensory tool, I began to see hidden people living inside my mother and my father, strange flashes of other beings that arose as something fugitive, something dangerous and not-them. I couldn't say—and still can't—what they are, who they are, or from where they came, but I saw them and still do. Surgeries repaired my hearing, but I have been transfixed, fascinated, and frightened ever since by things that reveal their power to change shape or contain multiples within. I believe that all of our senses work together to create composites of people, things, and experiences, and that much about them is thrown away in the combining. The process of making images with a camera is a way for me to bring some of that material back. All of my artistic explorations are attempts to reveal something about the liminal shades that live within things.

The series Hierophanies was an attempt to elicit liminal states from people by placing them naked in wild locations, by running through several narratives quickly to prevent self-reflection or conscious posing, and by shooting as many images as possible in 15 minutes. Often the locations were in remote wilderness areas that took hours to get to and set up all the gear that was carted in on a modified deer-sled: batteries, cables, stands, remote triggering on an X,Y axis with a rolling carousel, a 20' x 30' aluminum-framed tent with a parachute covering to fire lights through. Five years, thousands of mosquitoes bites, hundred of tick bites, two cases of Lyme’s Disease, and almost being arrested by armed Federal agents, gave me 60 images that were edited down to 25. The title Hierophanies is taken from the writings of Mircea Eliade; a "hierophany" is a word he coined to describe in primitive religious mythology a tear in the fabric of the profane world—the world of nature, life and death, rebirth, growth, time—through which it is possible to witness the sacred world—the timeless and eternal.

Process Statement
Slice time up into 1/250th of a second and you have the chance to capture glimpses of something other. Not only in people, but also in the strange spirits that live within trees and clouds and storms. These parts can be gathered with a digital camera and used to compose a larger image by a method that falls between painting and photography. In this manner, the digital camera does not shoot an “image” so much as it converts light to pixels, like gathering paint and textures—swathes of color or sky or grass of skin--from which to build images. Although most of the images were shot exactly as you see them, these post-production tools allow me to seek out and combine liminal edges, the areas that still retain beauty and yet that also contain disturbing elements that speak to the transformations I first witnessed as a child.

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