“Mural Magnificats”: Artist’s Statement
Rob Meadows-Rogers, Photographer Email me
What has one agreed to see, when one sees? Miracles abound, but the addictions of bluster and anxiety deny them entry. Indeed, the delicacy of miracle recoils equally from the obstinate eye and from a fastidious and squeamish myopia. These optical maladies also abound... in me, certainly no less than in others. Yet, for all that, the miraculous, with stalwart grace, declines to disappear. In the peripheral blur of the ego’s focus, the miracle persistently beckons enlarged vision. One cannot, thank God, defeat it.
Yet, from those who would receive annunciations, miracles demand humility and refuse timidity. At the same time, miracles also humble themselves (kenosis): they willingly gestate one’s dreams and partner one’s longings, while one’s attention fertilizes them. They grow larger, as do their beholders.
As the photographs in this exhibition hopefully demonstrate, the miraculous incarnations of a transcendent beauty can transfigure travel into pilgrimage. Often this beauty has most dumbfounded me with its wooing of time-worn or defaced walls “of no importance.” Exactly there, on diffident surfaces “beneath notice,” the miraculous has seduced me with revelatory textures, colors, lines, and shapes. I both attend and respond to these miraculous assemblages through the camera’s lens, which “magnifies” them. In this way, the photograph praises. It becomes a magnificat. It renders the experiential field as a hymn by clarifying, versifying, and harmonizing the miraculous as a pictorial image. I require this song, this photographic magnificat. I would wither without a capacity for articulating such fundamental recognitions, so elemental a gratitude.
Contemporary digital techniques have strengthened my optical hymnody. With more precise control over hue, saturation, tonality, and contrast, I can tune my vision more exactly. However, I never submerge the phenomenon beneath the artifice. I remain committed to the miraculous as a vector within lived experience and to the photograph as an aesthetic constellation of that experience. For the same reason, because I do not see in black-and-white, I take only color photographs. Combining some comments by Ansel Adams and Edvard Munch, I can say that I do not take photographs of what I see; I make photographs of what I saw. I technically caress the image until it occasions the ecstasy I remember.
With regard to the synergy between material reality and the photograph, unmediated sensory data have no more credibility than pure artifice, and neither of these can stir the spirit’s deepest trajectories. A congealed phenomenalism or a willful artifice can only devise metaphors for despair, whether of the journalistic or mannerist variety. This, in turn, results in either a diagnostic or reflexive art-about-problems. Although we may often require such diagnoses or reflexions, I personally aim for an art-about-answers, an art that scans for beauty’s defiant solace, especially in unlikely venues... like the garret where Géricault piled and painted “portraits” of those severed limbs (Delacroix called them “best argument for beauty, rightly understood”)... like the gallery where Duchamp, that sprite, choreographed his plumbing fixtures and his shovels with what, at least in retrospect, looks like nothing so much as tenderness.
The magnificats I attempt with my pictures culminate only in exhibition. As the miraculous always necessitates a magnificat (prayer or hymn, painting or photograph), so it creates a longing for community; enlightening, it always seeks a crescendo in brighter light. Likewise, for me, the miracle, the magnificat, and the Mass simply denote the three sides of the same sacramental coin.