My photographic series, In My Mother’s Garden, draws on the ancient principles of the camera obscura (understood by Aristotle, Vermeer and early Chinese Scholars) to achieve evocative delight. Combining this simple but powerful device, created by making a small hole in the exterior of a dark, enclosed box, with digital sensing technology I experiment with a range of low-tech lenses and filters to make these images. I aim to capture the pleasure and sensation of being in a light suffused garden, wandering amidst its beautiful plants and flowers. The images envision paradise; they are a hazy dream memory or future vision of a world of divine light, a meditation on the process of creation.
Photography has changed the way I see. When I first began using a camera with thought and intention more than 20 years ago, I learned quickly about framing, about putting a border around the world. I also learned to see everything in that frame, because it all ends up in the picture. I consciously tried to see more like a camera, and this improved my photography. In the last few of years, something else began to happen with my vision. I became very aware of the visual relationships among objects, of backgrounds and the changing quality of light. These visual relationships must have been there before, but I had never noticed. What had been like a grayscale utilitarian map of the territory in my mind became an intensely beautiful landscape. My visual experience as I move through the world has gone from the functional towards the numinous. I aim to embody this new awareness and expanded vision in My Mother’s Garden. I hope the artworks create a quiet happiness in viewers, that the colors and forms infuse their environment with a new brightness.
The German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich connected landscape and the sublime, as did his English contemporary, J.M.W. Turner, who brought in more light, color and weather in his beautiful painted skies than any painter had before. Mark Rothko took it into pure abstraction with his large canvases, and James Turrell, a Quaker whose grandmother told him to sit at the meeting house and wait for the light, creates environments where the numinous may be experienced in a museum. The spiritual, the nature of visual experience, and navigating the world are ancient concerns of art, just as gardens themselves are ancient places for the enjoyment of nature. The project In My Mother’s Garden started just there, literally in my mother’s garden in Napa, where I got excited about the results I got when photographing her flowers with my modified camera. Since those first experiments I continue to explore many gardens.
Diane Rosenblum studied Studio Art and Art History at Oberlin College, and has a Masters degree from the Brooks Institute of Photography. She has exhibited internationally in China, Argentina, and throughout the United States and California. Her work is in 20 museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, the LA County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, and The Albertina Museum in Vienna, among many others. She is represented by SLATE contemporary in Oakland.