A WEST MIDTOWN ART EXHIBIT CONSIDERS THE COMPLEXITIES OF LOUISIANA’S COASTAL LANDSCAPE
STORY: Claire Ruhlin
Photography meets painting in John Folsom’s portfolio. Born and raised in Paducah, Kentucky, the mixed-media artist received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in cinema and photography from Southern Illinois University, and his work has been featured in collections worldwide throughout his 20-plus-year career.
“Photography has always been an important part of my work. I like the notion of beginning with an image that has a fixed geographical point,” Folsom says. “From there I can create a fiction on the surface related to my own emotional state, but the underlying image is still located in reality.”
Through November, the artist’s solo series, The Vanishing, can be found at West Midtown’s Hathaway gallery. Featuring landscapes crafted from a combination of digital photography, mixed media and found materials, the exhibition focuses its lens on the swamps and bayous of coastal Louisiana. “I have always been drawn to the coastal South for inspiration,” Folsom says. “The contrast of indigenous flora with marshland and ocean yields a high drama that is at once exhilarating and frightening.”
But Folsom’s solo exhibition goes beyond capturing Louisiana’s picturesque settings; The Vanishing also takes inspiration from the state’s rapidly rising sea levels. Folsom first became interested in the topic after reading an online article about Louisiana’s disappearing landscape. “The wetlands are disappearing at the rate of a football field every hour,” Folsom says. “My immediate thought was to get in the car and start documenting the area. My work has always been associated with the natural world, but this phenomenon brings a new urgency to a coastline that is slowly eroding.”
To highlight this urgency, Folsom intentionally sought out materials with an ephemeral quality, utilizing thick, bulletproof acrylic taken from a bank building, as well as paint and photography. “I’m presenting a poetic interpretation of coastal areas in transition,” he says. “But my hope is that a deeper message of land loss stays with the viewer long after.”