Globalization, commodity accessibility, and humanity’s relationship with nature have been constant themes in my studio practice for some time now. Living in one of the world’s largest megacities continually magnifies for me just how complex and fragile our urban ecosystems have become.
All of the sets for the Threshold photographswere built using materials found, purchased, or borrowed within Mexico City during the SARS-CoV-2 lock downs. The much diminished selection of flora and fauna I’ve had access to this year has provided a glimpse into what parts of nature we deem essential or assign great value to, be it culturally, historically, or otherwise. Included in these tableaus are also the hangers-on; those plants and animals that have found ways to thrive within the humanscapes of today and perhaps suggest what will survive in an increasingly curated world.
This body of work was an opportunity to let my mind wander into a future we can only vaguely hypothesize about, and to ask what fingerprints we might place there. How will the creativity of the human mind effect change, intentionally or not, of future evolution and ecosystems? Which living things will humanity work to preserve and which will slip into history, redefining these photographs as ephemeral images of what has passed.
Whitney Lewis-Smith is a photo-based artist who works primarily with 8x10 glass plate negatives and elaborate set building. She is currently examining Biophilia, a term coined by renowned psychologist Erich Fromm describing how humans possess an innate tendency to seek connection with nature and other forms of life. As of 2008 The United Nations says more than half of the world lives in cities and the average pre-teen recognizes more video game characters than common wildlife. With today's accelerating technological advancements Lewis-Smith has become preoccupied with the evolution of humanity’s relationship with the natural world. During a production residency at The Museum of Natural History in Puebla, Mexico she worked with specimens that became a catalyst for her recent series discussing consumerism and the environment. Drawing from the “impossible bouquet” originating in dutch golden era painting Whitney uses the photograph to document what can now be amassed in the flesh, by internet purchase or otherwise, highlighting how globalization impacts the way we interact with the world around us. By depicting scenes that will again become an impossibility Lewis-Smith asks the viewer to recognize our current time as a passing moment.