Michael Marten – Sea Change

Michael Marten_Grain_Kent

Grain, Kent – Michael Marten

Sea Change – by Michael Marten – on view at Blue Sky Gallery here in Portland –

I think because I grew up in the cornfields of the Midwest – the views offered by Marten of seaside edges at various tides – low and high in close comparison  – are for me quite interesting and somewhat foreign.   Of course I’ve visited various shorelines along the way, but there is something important about spending enough time in one place in order to see the influences of the natural environment (or manmade for that matter) on the shape of the landscape. Perhaps it is an issue of slowing down enough to internalize it in a way – to come back time and again is the key.  One can do this in any number of places of course at different time scales, but the regular contrast and steady rhythm of high/low tides is a wonderful opportunity to do so in a predictable way.

Michael Marten_ Bedruthan Steps_Cornwall

From Marten’s statement:

“… Natural processes have lit, watered and shaped the world since time immemorial. Paying attention to their rhythms and effects may help us to reconnect to the fundamentals of the planet, which we ignore at our peril…”

Indeed.  All it takes is to be reminded in a serious way – how quickly you can be come isolated – at the mercy of nature’s way.  Perhaps that is the element missing for me in these pictures which are striking on their own terms – but for me an element of risk would be an interesting additional dimension in the series…. I like the series though – it is a good start on any number of possible ways to look at our world around us.

More of Marten’s work here on his website.


Untitled [Barn, North elevation, North of Aurelia, Cherokee County, Iowa]

Untitled [Barn, North elevation, North of Aurelia, Cherokee County, Iowa], 2006, Matt Niebuhr

North of Aurelia, along county road about 4 miles north of hi-way 3, a barn.

All by itself.

From the series Portraits: Portraits: Faces and Profiles of Utility, a vestige of another time and another farmstead, slowly vanishing from the Iowa Landscape. I’ve made it a concern of mine now to look closely for these old structures – most are relatively insignificant examples of rural utility in action, but in the aggregate become an alarming signal of an end of an era. Gone (or slowly vanishing) are the old wood barns and corn cribs. There usefulness – that rural utility is disappearing, replaced by modern steel structures – faster, bigger, cheaper… and soulless.

Only occasionally can you find one of these old guys re-purposed and thus maintained… A few are being saved most likely out of a certain defiance of changing times. Its been changing for some time now. Mega farms – mass industrialized farming is the economic reality. More to come on this subject as I am contemplating an assembly…

One in a series entitled Portraits: Faces and Profiles of Utility