Leaf Cutting Series

I think of the leaves in this series as visual representations of wildness, while the alterations I make to them – the cutting -- are a form of rational human intervention. I believe the motivation for this work flows from those contradictory human impulses described in antiquity as the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Order verses chaos. Civilization verses wilderness. Or -- in “The New World” -- the impulse to control nature, that Europeans brought to America, verses the impulse of many native peoples to live in harmony with nature. Those contradictory impulses continue today and shape the way we think about our relationship with the natural world. Do we protect it, exploit it, or some combination of the two?


The writer Wendell Berry reminds us in his poem “The Wild Geese” that “What we need is here.” Yet few of us are up to the challenge of that simple idea. We strive for more, for progress, for convenience, for the new. As artists – especially as artists – we strive to push boundaries. On some level this work grows out of those contradictory impulses that leave us so unsettled.  


The images from the Leaf Cutting Series are camera-less photographs made from handmade negatives, a process from the 19th century called cliché verre. It was used briefly by a few French artists exploring the newly-developed medium of photography. They drew images on glass plates and printed them on light-sensitive paper. My contemporary process is a hybrid one. After making a negative by hand that includes actual leaves, I scan it, process it digitally, and then print it as an archival ink jet print.

Gregory Spaid

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