Review by Cynde Randall
Swan Vision presents
Photosynthesis in Maiden Rock
June 23 – July 28
The extraordinary heart and vision of artist Linda Rossi has served to manifest powerful imagery for the past four decades. Rossi sees and feels like a river—sweeping the land’s topography and embellishments, dissolving boundaries and washing over disparate fields of inquiry. Rossi’s quest to truly see the world flows with integrity around any obstacle that she may find in her way. She is searching—always searching to see where life is, to reconcile its grievances; and to reveal what is poignant, beautiful and difficult—through all manner of expressive artistic forms.
Rossi is a pioneer of mixed-media presentation—having combined photography, film, video, sound, electronics, text and sculpture to reveal the poetic intersections of art, history and science—since the late seventies. Conventional boundaries have never held sway for Rossi whose utmost concern has always been the revelation of deep and expansive inquiry.
Today, Rossi’s singularly insistent heart/vision is crystalized, faceted and expanded by a range of optical technologies, allowing her to occupy multiple points of view. She utilizes a vast array of equipment, including, digital, analog, and stereoscopic cameras; microscopes, telescopes, 3Dscanners, Photoshop and camera-mounted drones—all in a passionate quest to see and reveal the world. Whatever serves her quest she will master and employ with abandon.
Soon after moving to Northfield, Minnesota—to join the fine arts faculty of Carleton College— Linda Rossi began a visual catalogue of the floral and fauna of Rice County. Over a collection of years, she shot many hundreds of photographs in wild and cultivated spaces, including the myriad species who navigate both territories. Through her extensive witness of these 516 square miles, Rossi became acquainted with a tiny chapel near Nerstrand, built by Norwegian immigrant farmers, in 1862.
And—as any deep contemplation of the modern landscape is connected to the energy of earlier human interventions—Rossi thought it fitting to distill and shape her inquiry for presentation in the chapel itself. The chapel preservation board agreed to her proposal and, in October of 2017, Rossi installed a mixed-media exhibition that she called “Photosynthesis”.
For her exhibition “Photosynthesis in Maiden Rock” Rossi presents the main components of the original installation, including four harvest tables set with seasonal images and embellished tools (gloves and magnifying glasses) to facilitate their examination. Each suite of images is housed in
a leather clamshell portfolio labeled in Norwegian: Var (for spring), Sommer (for summer), Host (for fall) and Vinter (for winter). Through her unconventional presentation Rossi invites the viewer to don the gloves and sit with the images—partaking of their nourishment as if for a meal. Within this experience is the chance to look slowly, to reflect on the quality of 21st century image consumption and to remember that nature is the source of all that sustains us.
Rossi has long been cognizant that eco-systems play out through reciprocal relationships and that natural patterns of universal consciousness appear repeatedly. Through her images Rossi recognizes the holographic nature of the universe—a watershed in a pattern of frost, a river in the veins of a leaf, the encoded memory of the oak tree in an acorn—the aesthetic structures and systems that show how life works. These are explored and revealed by the artist with joy. Rossi zeros in on the minute structures of cellular pattern and zooms out to visit celestial entities like the moon. This is the vast range of her search.
As a photographer Rossi is aware that when she looks at the landscape, the landscape looks back. Her communion acknowledges that her subjects are busy living their lives. They are not just waiting for her to get the right shot for a wildlife calendar.
Rossi’s photographs feel fresh and unencumbered, as if they embody the splendid energy of the natural world. How can this be? My speculation yields the following: First, Rossi truly loves the plants, the frost, the creatures, the moon and all the other beings that Mother Nature made. Her love resonates in the work (just as the energy brought to any task, permeates its result); Second, Rossi treasures the humble space between her subjects and herself, dispelling the hierarchy placing humans above other sentient beings. So too energy of reciprocity is present; and third, Rossi’s respect for reciprocity brings awareness and compassion for all beings, which is heightened consciousness. She sees through this consciousness.
Vedic science teaches that separation can be removed by double-arrowed attention—a phenomenon wherein the watcher sees outside and inside, simultaneously. One arrow goes to the object, one arrow into the heart. And as the watcher watches the watcher; the watcher AND the
space between the watcher and object disappears, so that the two are together in the consciousness of one. It is easy to see the outside object and forget oneself. And it is easy to see inside and forget the outside. To live in a state of remembering both is not easy. It is neither market nor monastery. It is a witnessing that sees divine consciousness in all things. I believe that this witnessing is inherent to Rossi’s seeing practice.
Rossi believes that to heal the world we must heal our relationship with nature. The impetus to love the planet Earth is encoded deep within. If the codes have been switched off, it’s a matter of switching them back on. If this seems daunting, consider this: several years ago, a 2000-year-old
lotus seed was excavated from an archeological site in China. The seed was given proper nourishment. It germinated and grew into a lotus plant.
It is useful to remember that the landscape is a mirror of human consciousness. Its degradation reflects the misapprehension of the human mind; flagging an opportunity to remember and activate a new relationship. Linda Rossi never forgot—never switched off the codes within her. But for those suffering with amnesia, there are many ways to remember. Slowing down, spending time in nature and meditating on images created by ecologically-tuned artists—are some things that can bring healing.
A beautiful world awaits our recognition—our double arrowed attention—so that we can take heart and activate our stewardship of the planet that is our one and only home. An ancient poetic text from the Mundaka Upanishad offers this instruction:
Two birds perch in the selfsame tree. One bird eats the sweet and bitter fruit. The other bird
—Cynde Randall, March 2018, Maiden Rock, Wisconsin
This essay accompanies Swan Vision Gallery’s second exhibition of contemporary art: “Photosynthesis in Maiden Rock”, on view Friday through Sunday, noon-5:00 from June 23 – July 28, 2018. Swan Vision presents focused exhibitions of contemporary art, curated by Cynde Randall, to reveal the living artists’ take on transformative practice, interbeing and alignment with the planet Earth. The gallery is made possible by a collaboration with Santosha Center in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. For more information visit www.swanvision.net or follow Swan Vision on Facebook. Contact Cynde Randall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-250-9222 Linda Rossi is a recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota, through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislature appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.