If you head west, then further west, you reach the coast. Where do you go from there?
I was referring to these images as psychedelic even before I made them. To have a psychedelic experience is to free your mind from its normal constraints. When I had the idea for these images, I was able to shift the colors of the natural world in my mind. Skies were pink and leaves were blue.
I’ve always been envious of painters’ ability to shift reality in whichever direction they choose. With this work, I wanted to do something similar: create a world that is familiar yet also wild, otherworldly. My work is a marriage of calculation and spontaneity. I have a toolkit and a sense of what might happen, but at the same time, it’s a surprise. I love the idea of making an “impossible” image.
I once read an article about Yosemite in Time (2005), a book that came out of Rebecca Solnit’s trips with the photographers Byron Wolfe and Mark Klett to rephotograph sites originally photographed by Ansel Adams. Klett said, “What we saw in the Adams photographs is: This is nature. And it’s beautiful because you’re not there.” That’s such a contrast to my work. I’m extending an invitation, not to view untouchable, pristine places from a distance, but rather to step inside and move beyond the confines of our everyday perceptions. In each of my images there’s a possibility, a story of what could never really happen, but then it did.
Our current political reality includes a government unwilling to confront ecological collapse and a president who is actively deaccessioning public land. I want these images to help preserve the wildness of our open spaces — by heightening and newly envisioning that wildness.- Terri Loewenthal