Ruth Wetzel: Artist Statement

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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 photographs explore water as it exists in nature, holding, moving, and carving spaces and blurring spatial perception. Water is something that holds and supports like a solid but moves at the same time. In stillness, water’s surface can reveal so much of below and above.

I photograph this exploration in swamps, creeks, beaches, and swimming pools. In deconstructing expected landscape configurations, I find abstraction blooms between light, reflection, and receding surfaces. In water spaces, my formal interests combine with mystery, nuance, and spirituality. The viewer is engaged through questioning what they are looking at, and how to decode the scene. Each picture invites narrative interpretation and unfolds slowly.

My 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.  I present my landscape work to bring attention to swamps’ aesthetic and biodiverse 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 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.

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