NWC News Desk

Deborah Ford talks about her photographic work at a Nov. 7 artists reception in Northwest Gallery

Posted October 27, 2008

P O W E L L,  W y o. - Deborah Ford will discuss "The Nature of Process: Photographic Works by Deborah Ford" during an artist's reception from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, at Northwest Gallery in Powell.

The 31 photos created by Ford are currently displayed in the gallery and will be through Friday, Nov. 14. They represent three separate but related bodies of work completed by Ford during the past few years. They were selected from her previous exhibits titled "Common Ground," "Symbiotic Equivalence" and "Like Insects in Amber."

Ford said her title for the combined show, "The Nature of Process," refers to the process of her personal transformation and the transformation that occurred within her photographic bodies of work during the last few years.

Beginning in 2005, Ford spent time photographing in Minnesota, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Michigan. She was primarily interested in the ways the photographic process could transform views of "seemingly" ordinary landscapes.

"As an artist, I am committed to transforming the way individuals interact with the world around them," Ford said. "Children and adults need to witness firsthand the wonders of nature on a local level and in their own backyards, not just the grand of national parks. Through these images I look to create some of that experience and investigate these ideas."

Ford's work on this set of images, which she calls "Common Ground," took a pivotal turn when she discovered lichens.

"Initially I was attracted to the unique visual qualities of lichens, wild and evocative," she said. "With more in-depth investigation and exploration I was intrigued by what I began to discover about the life form itself. Lichens are complex composite organisms made up of two and sometimes three different biological kingdoms, usually a fungi and a photosensitive partner growing together in a symbiotic relationship. Usually this relationship is mutually beneficial and rarely is it harmful. I felt there was a lesson to be learned here, a parallel to the process of symbiosis, if you will."

She ultimately found herself wanting to address symbiosis in visual form to better understand its nuance. This exploration led to a collection of photos she calls "Symbiotic Equivalence."

The last collection in the exhibit, "Like Insects in Amber," comprises four mixed-media images taken while she was living in Wyoming where she was again consumed by the landscape of the American West and how this particular landscape can transform the psyche.

"The western landscape has been a powerful source of physical, economic, spiritual, political and personal exploration throughout history," Ford said. "Individuals have come west and formed connections to the land, many of which are a contradictory or contested nature for political gain, profit or personal inspiration.

"From these pursuits, complex stories are born, personal and public, literary and visual, and they live on to form our collective understanding of 'the west.' Cultural attitudes and identity are reflected in the cartography and place names, personal albums and public imagery that are housed in our museums and private collections. I am interested in this ambiguity of photographic information and how images work equally as harbingers of truth and fiction."

Ford teaches visual arts at Prescott College in Arizona. A sabbatical gave her the opportunity in 2006-07 to work for the Ucross Foundation in Clearmont, Wyo., as the residency and gallery manager. Her work has been exhibited across the Rocky Mountain West and as far east as Kentucky. She holds  bachelor's and master's degrees in photography and art education from Arizona State University.

 The nature of process encompassed in Ford's work can be viewed through Friday, Nov. 14, in Northwest Gallery. Located in the Cabre Building at Northwest College in Powell, the gallery is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. Admission is free.