MELINDA HURST FRYE
With dirt under my nails, my heart jumps when my hand brushes against a worm in the soil. I am reminded of the world that thrives underground, unsettled by the mystery that is at my fingertips. I watch the beetle make its path through the strawberry plants. Who else is below me making their work in and on the earth? The success and diversity of life near and below the surface contributes directly to life and survival above the surface, though some species and behaviors of these residents are often unknown. ‘Underneath’ is a series of implied urban subterranean ecosystems, an illustrated look at what lives, dies and feasts at ground level and below.
The images live in the space between the real and the mysterious, presenting the environment through a smaller lens of an urban, underground habitat. The work punctuates the need to honor the health of our urban spaces, as subterranean ecosystems reflect the condition of our greater, shared environment. Analogous to a natural history tableau, flora and fauna take center stage to illustrate that we are always tied to migration, evolution and metamorphosis. The surface is not a border, but an entrance to homes, nurseries, highways and graveyards.
Underneath is a series of constructed views of subterranean ecosystems from my own immediate space in the city of Seattle, Washington, as well as a look at life at, and beneath, our toes. My photographic approach aims to create curious representations of ecosystems while referring to place and memory. In addition to a camera, I use a flatbed scanner to capture a level of detail that the camera cannot compete with, playful perspective, and an odd sense of light. I am attracted to making work that takes time and find the layering of processes necessary in my artistic discovery. I approach a chosen space like an amateur ecologist; observing, sketching, noting, photographing specimens and scanning the scene with a scanner. Once I have ‘collected’ the scene, I begin the process of visually telling the story of what I saw, and who (or what) may live among us, through compositing the elements together into a visual narrative.