Photography is a language for me, a way of telling what I see. The challenge is to convey meaning using light, form, shape, gesture, and of course, content. Often this process is intuitive, a search for something that is essentially inexpressible in words. As an early photography mentor, Kate Carter, often said, quoting Robert Frost, "We all sit in a circle and suppose. The secret sits in the center and knows."
I photograph many different subjects but the ones that draw me back repeatedly have a common theme of disruption – forest fires, revolutions, and recently, climate change. I’m drawn to the aftermath of upheaval, be it environmental or social, momentary or spread over millennia.
I’m fortunate to live in New Mexico, a living tableau of upheaval in its volcano-derived geology, frequent massive forest fires, and increasing drought. Here the land is constantly recovering from something.
That same curiosity about the marks of disruptive change took me to Cuba several times to photograph the aftermath of a revolution now more than fifty years past. I found the richest evidence in the personal spaces that Cubans are able to fashion in a collective society on the cusp of change.
One-seed juniper trees, Juniperus monosperma, have covered much of the American southwest for thousands of years. They are so common we barely notice them except in their abundance. Some research ecologists now think that prolonged drought and rising temperatures could be a fatal combination for junipers at the driest edges of their distribution, where their natural responses to heat and drought could kill them.
Juniper Futures, my project, while I was an artist-in-residence at Bandelier National Monument in 2015, was inspired by reflecting on the mortality of seemingly healthy junipers in the park.
The Green Fuse: A Forest After a Fire
New Mexico, where I live, is afflicted by large and frequent forest fires. The Las Conchas fire of 2011 consumed 150,000 acres in the Jemez Mountains and burned for over 30 days. The power of the fire was impossible to ignore and after the fire, up close in the forest, the signs of its impact were equally powerful. Whole mountainsides were changed into standing charcoal while others were selectively singed. The color palate, the piney forest smell, and the cycle of nature were wholly altered.
After the fire was contained and the first rain fell, signs of renewal began to appear immediately. I began documenting that renewal in 2011 by going deep into the forests of the Jemez Mountains to search for new growth.
Cuba on the Cusp
Curiosity drew me to Cuba. As Cuba’s history unfolded just 90 miles from the U.S. but behind a barrier few Americans could cross, Castro told one story while Cuban exiles told another. Somewhere between their embroidered memories and his exuberant promises lay a truth waiting to be discovered.
Historians sort through the past for clues to what has unfolded. Artists look in the present for clues to what will unfold. My photographs taken in Havana between 2010 and 2014 show a culture in transition from socialism to something not yet defined but clearly hinted at throughout Havana. In her crumbing architecture and cramped living quarters are signs of reversal and change, signs that space, even when held in common, must still be made personal.
Havana is a place where relationships, more than things, define a person, but where cherished personal possessions still matter, and people are proud to open their homes to a foreign artist in search of their reality. In many Cubans today is a cautious willingness to hope, to engage, to reveal. And as restrictions on commerce ease, many are testing the waters of entrepreneurship. New relations with the U.S. will push these boundaries even further.
Exhibited and Featured Work
Touch, group show curated by Christopher Rauschenberg, Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR, 2018
Touch, Blue Sky Book 99, blueskygallery.org/books
Cuba Now, two artists, Seventy South Gallery, Morristown, NJ, 2017
Santa Fe Workshop Group Show, Fototeca de Cuba, Havana, Cuba, 2017
The Fence, outdoor group show in the Santa Fe Railyard, 2016
Woman, group show, Edition One Gallery, Santa Fe, 2016
Three Visions of the Landscape, three artists, Bandelier National Monument, NM, 2015
Fire Season, group show, New Mexico Museum of Art, 2015
Evolving Boundaries, group show, Review Santa Fe Alumni Exhibition, The Marion Center for Photographic Arts, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, June 2015
Objects of Desire, Solo show, Fotographika Gallery, Gland, Switzerland, September 2014
The Road to Nowhere: Southwest Sojourns. Group show, The Marion Center for Photographic Arts, Santa Fe University of Art and Design, Santa Fe, NM, June 2014
Objects of Desire. Solo show, Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR, April 2014
Featured on Photolucida blog, June 2014, http://photolucidapdx.blogspot.com/2014/06/interview-with-patricia-galagan-2013.html
The Green Fuse. Solo show, Photo-Eye Bookstore, Santa Fe, NM, October 2013.
Poetic Objects: Still Life as Subject. Group show, Photoworkplace Gallery, Middlebury, VT. 2012
Personal Portraits. Group show, Vermont Photoworkplace Online Gallery, 2012
Cuba portraits and interior spaces featured in the Art Photo Index, Photo-Eye, 2012
Cuba portraits and interior spaces, featured in the Lenscratch blogzine, June, 2012 http://www.lenscratch.com/2012/06/patricia-galagan.html
InSight: Women’s Photography Exhibit. Group show, Expo New Mexico, Fine Arts Building, Albuquerque, NM, 2012 and 2013
In the Mind’s Eye. Group show, Albuquerque Photographers Gallery, Albuquerque, NM, 2011
Captivar La Luz. Group show, Blue Star LAB Gallery, San Antonio, TX, 2010
Artist in residence, Bandelier National Monument, 2015
Accepted into the Photo Archives, New Mexico History Museum, 2015
Winner, Spotlight Award, Black & White magazine Portfolio Contest, 2015
Winner of Photolucida's 2013Critical Mass Solo Exhibition Award at Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR
Accepted for Review Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM, 2013 and 2015
Finalist, Black and White Photographer of the Year, 2013, Worldwide Photography Gala Awards
Grand Prize, Santa Fe Photography Workshops Portrait Competition, 2012
Winner of Best in Show and Best in Portrait Category, 2012 Annual New Mexico Photographic Art Show, Albuquerque, NM
Objects of Desire, portraits of Cubans with cherished objects. Magcloud, http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/715893
The Green Fuse, catalog of the solo show at Photo-Eye Bookstore, October 2013. Blurb,