Portrait
In the sense that the work always reveals the artist, the details of nature that Wyeth paints on his walks - a chestnut stump, the texture of fungus-covered bark, a beehive - are the purest portraits of himself...
— Richard Meryman, from Andrew Wyeth (1968)

I have been thinking about this space - my little corner of the web - which I too often neglect. I have been asking myself, why did I originally create this space and what purpose does it serve?

I think of this space overall as my journal, a collection of words + pictures. Too often, I fear, I make attempts to demonstrate - detailing my education, for example - my qualifications. Qualified to do what? To write? To make pictures? To talk about natural history? To share my personal experiences? 

I collect images in galleries, create printed products and assemble a newsletter so that the space serves a purpose. I do this so I may reconcile the costs associated with reserving a domain name and maintaining a website and blogging platform. If I offer something to visitors, I am providing a service, right? This thing I do here has a purpose. All the while I know its real purpose: to record the things I love...in words + pictures. 

Nobody knows what sentiments transpire in my mind, what inspirations alternately rise and fall as I identify myself again with that snatch of ideal life placed upon those meager bits of sensitized paper.
— N.C. Wyeth, lingering on photographs from home (1904)

My rationale for writing and making pictures is most assuredly to think about, recollect, and associate with the places I know and love - locales to which I return again and again (in body and mind). The visitor most often logged on to this site is its author - because I truly adore browsing (not my own sensitized paper) but my own digitized images. My pictures transport me to a place, a time of day, a season.  

I am amused by how often, when I read about another person's creative pursuits, immediately I am able to appreciate my own process with clarity. Sara Lea wrote in her essay on American artist Joseph Cornell:

Cornell considered a wide range of activities to be a part of his creative work...reading, writing and not least the act of collecting, which charged his routine rhythms of leaving and returning home with potential.
— Wanderlust, Royal Academy of Arts (2015)

Cornell referred to his lifelong habit of keeping dated notes, paper snippets and ephemera (i.e. collections) as diarying. Of course! What else is a diary if not a record of events and experiences? And so, I have begun to reconcile my feelings toward this space.

Curiously, while I have curated hundreds of my images here - I have never been able to organize them in a way that evokes the emotion and sense of place I experience when I view the same pictures offline. While I have struggled to create galleries that appear cohesive or even, academic in their organization I have lost the very essence of why I made each picture in the first place - I tire of researching the scientific names of flowers and insects and the emotion falls away, leaving me frustrated. 

When you start putting names on things it gets to be something you do - and for me all imagination disappears.
— Andrew Wyeth

While sometimes I absolutely do know the species of flower which I am photographing, quite frankly it does not matter to me...or anyone else. My struggle to curate images, guessing how my visitors will access them, wondering if I have said too little (nothing) or too much (common name, scientific name, copyright)...I feel as if my personality is disappearing from this space. My wide range of activities, my beloved bits of knowledge are all part of my process. Evidence of my process isn't necessary; my images should paint the picture. 

I not only wish to record the things I love in words + pictures...I hope to reveal myself. To create a portrait of my relationship with the world - the locale immediately around me. The routine rhythms of the seasons.

 

 

Jessica Allen explores the fields and forests of Pennsylvania with her artist-husband, Michael Allen, and their son, Benjamin. She shares her observations through words and pictures of everyday magic and beauty she sees in her world.