Portraits from the Carbon Cycle
River Valley Co-op (330 N King Street, Northampton, MA 01060, Northampton MA)
Starting with gnarly deadwood and ending with a rose hip in a yoga pose, luscious prints by photographer AgathaO (Pleun Bouricius) invite the viewer to notice the beauty of the life and death cycle ongoing in even the most unassuming waste places. *Portraits From The Carbon Cycle* (selections) is a plant-based exhibit at the River Valley Market Cafe in Northampton that focuses on stately portraits of gorgeous “divas,” so-called “lovely dead crap,” and the role of water in facilitating the cycle that is necessary for our collective survival.
**Artist’s statement ~ Portraits from the Carbon Cycle (selections)**
Much of my current photography is part of a larger project entitled P*ortraits in the Carbon Cycle*, the water-facilitated cycling and recycling of chemical elements, built into each living being, on which life on Earth depends.
We are made of the same carbon as the cliff we scale, the ledge we curse when plowing, the elephant shot by a poacher, and the ivory he reaps. “Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return,” the Christian Bible would have it, poetically (Genesis 3:19). As people, we often try to preserve our own remains from the cycle that sustains life on earth. None of the others we share the Earth with do. Detritus, biologists call much of what they leave behind. The dead stuff that falls and floats down. The stuff that feeds small beings that in turn are eaten, and so on — to start the cycle again.
To preserve the cycles we depend on we need to change our relationship with nature. To change, we need closer connections with the natural world that surrounds us — right here, right now, not just in Yellowstone Park or the Arctic. We need to get to know them, empathize. Through science we know something of the motivations of plants, but little to connect with on a personal level. Who are we to know that plants do not experience the effort of perseverance, or preen in the knowledge of their achievement of beauty or elegance? I try to get the viewer to do a double take, “wait, what?,” and look a little more closely in the future.
I like to see how the world works, how nature around us grows and decays, much of it hidden and overlooked, too small to notice, or caught up in something to which we have a learned response like “yuck,” or “brrr.” I aspire to do the same with my own experience of nature, expressing the feelings of joy, longing, and sensual delight that come with the seasons and the mood or smell of a particular day.
Roaming marshes and bogs, lakes and puddles, the edges of estuaries and streams, in and by the water where the life cycle is displayed for all to see, I chase the art and beauty in nature beyond the obvious of the perfect blossom and well-shaped tree. Plants rise from the bottom, fed by the nutrients and detritus shed by plants and insects. Soon, they, too, rise again. The system is beauteous beyond compare.
Displayed in my July exhibit at the Art Space at the River Valley Coop are wall sections focused on Divas, but also so-called “Lovely Dead Crap,” collections of organized cellulose displaying themselves as they get ready to sink back into the earth, and the water that transports them.
I am the author of three collections of photographs and short essays: *Born Wet* (2022), *Beech: The Fall and Rise of a Forest* (2019), and *The Bog*(2017). You will find my work on my website,AgathaO.com, for sale in my Etsy store,etsy.com/shop/AgathaOphoto, and regionally at festivals and shows. My next book, tentatively entitled *To the Moon and Back: Surveying the Lay of the Land from New England to British Columbia,* is forthcoming.