Terri Loewenthal USA

Artist Statement

This is what it means to be an inhabitant of the West in 2021: sweltering in preternatural heatwaves, rationing water usage, and either running from wildfire or searching for air that's safe to breathe. There can be no question that the environmental problems we currently face are the inevitable endgame of the extractive ideology of Manifest Destiny ("this place is ours to consume, from sea to shining sea"). We know we should leave oil in the ground, adopt plant-based diets, and convert our buildings to intelligently store heat, cold, and water for when we need them most. We know this, and we also witness daily that knowledge isolated from emotion, imagination, and experience is not enough.

When I'm in wild spaces beyond the male gaze, knowing and being known, seeing and being seen take on an entirely different character. The smallest inquiry into a place becomes inherently relational: how do these beings of rock and river and sky receive me, and how do I receive them? What does it feel like in the mind, body, and heart to nurture a complex and deep relationship with the earth, rather than attempt to control and define it?

These images are a response to that inquiry. They are created not from an idea or preconceived image of what nature "looks like"; they are born from deep within the experience of what it feels like to sit and be with nature. For me, representational imagery often fails to convey the full-bodied experience of a place. Heightening the experience of it through color comes closer to truth. The Havasupai people call themselves Havasu Baaja, the "people of the blue green waters"- the waters themselves are a source of belonging. For these images, I used the milky turquoise of the mineral-laden Havasu waterfalls as a starting point for exploring what it feels like to be here.

Staying present with our surroundings in times of vast environmental degradation requires taking care of wild spaces, in ways that go beyond conventional conservation. It requires intimacy, the building of genuine relationship. The saturated compositions I create with my custom optics allow me to offer an expression of relationship with land that is alive, exuberant, and thriving with coexistence. It's my attempt to indicate the spirit of a place, to offer the love and respect that all beings need to a waterfall. The reverence and play connect me backwards and forwards in time- to the impulse we respond to when we visit the ocean to scatter ashes of a loved one, or get married in a grove of ancient trees, or blow a dandelion for the sheer joy of watching the seeds float away.