The Macro Gorgeousness of Salt
Artist Christine Lorenz finds galaxies alien landscapes in the ubiquitous mineral
It was the typical school science fair panic scenario. A deadline loomed, the kid needed help and the parent was short on time.
“I had to come up with a way to make salt crystals quickly,” says artist Christine Lorenz, who went about her parental heroics with startling efficiency. “I figured out a way to grow them in the oven, and they looked pretty cool in macro.”
Lorenz had been experimenting with macro photography for a photo series on marbles so it was an “easy transition” to turn to the saline muse. These modest beginnings belie the captivating results.
The cosmic details of Salt can as easily be couched in the language of fifth-grade curriculum as they can in Lorenz’s more expansive meditations.
“I don’t want to be so trite as to start talking about seeing the universe in a grain of sand, but the visual correspondence between the micro scale and the macro scale has some poetic appeal,” says Lorenz. “Think of The Powers of Ten, where we humans are having our innocent picnic midway between two scales of incomprehensible vastness.”
“I use photography to think about the small-scale detritus of domestic life,” say Lorenz whose daily orbit is circumscribed by the limits of home, garden, and school. She pushes against those that might want to categorize or patronize her based on these domestic boundaries.
“Once you’re slotted as a ‘Mom Artist’ it’s hard to escape,” she says.
Lorenz, whose visual field is “full of the same places, the same things, again and again,” believes a slower pace and some quiet can help us see the world as it is. This is often in direct opposition to culture’s constant hum.
“The ways we conceptualize the big questions of where we are and how we will get where we want to be … much of that we are coming to through collaborative, open, fluid communication,” says Lorenz. “But I don’t want us to lose sight of the kind of thinking that can only happen in solitude, and silence, and slowness.”
Throughout Salt, Lorenz has also reflected on people in the world who have an inhibited view of the world due to age or injury.
“People who are close to me have had to live in even smaller spaces, physically speaking — as small as a bed — for a long time sometimes, or a very small apartment,” says Lorenz, “and most of the time alone.”
Lorenz is inspired by Andy Warhol and Emily Dickinson’s musing on solitude — and even boredom.
Photography, Lorenz argues, can bring the rest of the world to us. It can widen our aperture. Photography can remind us to look more consciously.
“What do we fix our eyes on when it is quiet, when we are alone, and sometimes when we are not [consciously] looking at anything in particular?” she says.
What flits through our past our eyes without it even registering? What do we miss?
The high-priest of modern art, Robert Smithson, once made a monumental coiled earthwork on the northern edge of the Great Salt Lake called Spiral Jetty, and it elicited this comment from critic Arthur C. Danto: “There can be little question that [Smithson] found something more primordial than primary structures, something more rawly connected to the energies of nature.”
Lorenz feels that. She’ll delve into the ineffable but is equally happy to call pretty pictures as they are.
“Basically, the salt crystals look like galaxies.”
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