Ruth Wetzel: Artist Statement
I grew up in a swamp in the hamlet of Katonah, NY, in a neighborhood of split-ranch houses that had been built during a drought. When the drought ended, every home had to be surrounded by drainage ditches. Behind my house, there were swamps everywhere, and I spent my childhood in perpetually wet sneakers, bog-hopping, building tree forts and drawing. I have deep kinetic memories of how to navigate in swamps as well as a visual database of swamp views.
My swamp photography is a commingling of nature’s reflections, transparencies, and perspectives, colliding to create complex spaces. It is here that alternative narratives of flora and fauna occur. I am a quiet curious observer communicating these views to others. In wetlands, all my formal interests combine with mystery, nuance, and spirituality. The images of this photographic series exist on the edge between what is beautiful and what is mysterious or repugnant. The viewer is engaged through questioning what they are looking at, and how to decode the scene. Each picture invites narrative interpretation, imbued with fantasy, foreboding and contradictions. I present this work to bring attention to swamps’ aesthetic and biodiversical treasures, and thus the value of wetlands to the health of the environment. Beavers, turtles, frogs and ducks are my companions and soundtracks, and from my lower-than-normal-height point of view, I see more from an animal’s perspective.
I view the process of looking closely at nature as a form of mediation. In photographing the swamps, I am immersed in the moment and my surroundings. I walking through wetlands looking to unearth or capture a perfect shot akin to a hunter or archeologist. I have to be still so the water will hold reflections clearly. I have be aware of each location’s different plant life, pollen drop, water level, and orientation to the sun throughout the seasons to plan my shots.