Ground Swell explores the layering of cultural identities on the physical landscape.
My photographs are metaphorical responses to memories of Guam, my motherland.
“Stricken City” and “Apart” look down on strips of cement found on the walk to my studio. The shadow of a surface hidden outside of the frame shapes each composition. I designed these veiled surfaces with a compass, a tool historically used to aid navigation. The compass physically links my own hands to the hands of past participants in the colonization of islands and other territories.
In “Blinking in Salt,” “An Island to Sow,” and “Our Bellow to Hold,” I lay my photographs on the floor and draw over them. I draw a series of figures with dirt and water using my fingers. This layered, tactile process contrasts with my former practice in straight photography. I then lift these prints off the ground to re-photograph them, signaling a moment of release and allowing sunlight to radiate through the cement barriers inside each frame.
A sense of landscape, or place, is present in Harry Cole’s large-scale photographs. Blurring the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, physicality and illusion, photography and painting, these enigmatic compositions are in fact the combination of or reconciliation between close-up views of layers of marks (found or constructed) on cement floors, and artificial shadowy shapes made with a pair of compasses and inspired by historic photographs of Guam. Far away, so close. The use of a compass, a traditional tool for measuring of distances on a map and for navigation, becomes a conceptual device of intervention or mediation to integrate what is present and what is imagined. The photographs reflect a sensitivity for texture and nuanced colors.
"He related an exchange which took place between his friend Sancho and some Chamorro elders. His friend asked the elders who created the heavens, the earth, and the ocean. They thought the question was foolish. They replied that they themselves created the ocean, the earth, and the heavens by looking at them."
Norman, Oklahoma, 1997
Piti, Guam, 2004, 2009, 2014
Rogers, Arkansas, 2016
Palo Alto, California, 2020