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Glass Tree: Shift and Allegory

The broken glass is thick and dark grey, piled against the side of a structure with boarded up windows. It recalls the Claude glass– a Victorian optical device made from convex tinted glass. The Claude glass was carried on walks, useful as a picturesque viewfinder. The smoky tint of the glass accentuated mid-tones, giving any landscape the look of a glazed painting (named for Claude Lorraine). The convex curve provided a wide-angle view, usually within the frame of an oval, resulting in a harmonious composition from almost any vantage point. I collect the shards of glass, and take them back to my studio.

I return to the vacant lot on Water St, carrying the glass in a crate, which is strapped to a cart with wheels. In my studio, I painted the silhouette of tree branches across each piece of glass, an introduction of fiction. I reassemble the glass into the tree configuration, following the diagram that maps the position of each piece, in order to assure the continuity of the painted branches.The trees nearby cast the reflection of their foliage onto the painted reflection of branches, commingling to complete the image. The doubling of reflections, both painted and real, flatten into the reflected image of a singular and non-existent tree. The image shifts between every new vantage point, revealing itself with every step as the ambient reflection changes and the painted reflection remains static.

The material shifts between the shattered picture plane to which the paint adheres, and the shattered window from which the glass came. The pieces of broken glass have a history of their own: they once belonged to a building on Water St, an act of presumed vandalism left them smashed. This history connects to the broader history of New Haven and Urban Renewal, and this cities history can extend out to the history of many like cities; however, the transformation that takes place within the image condenses into a momentary fiction. This image remains in the time of allegory. The various histories of site and material provide an extension into the past. Once packed away again into its crate, the potential for intermingled images extends on into the future.

To continue down Water St would be to encounter a drawbridge with a special platform just for fishing – where schools of silver fish jump in the evening. Instead, my destination is a platform that jets out into the Long Island Sound at a ninety-degree angle. Facing out at the edge of this abandoned dock, a panorama of harbor industry fills my peripheral vision. This was chosen as the second site in which to assemble the glass tree because of the peculiar phenomenon that here, even though this is the East coast, the setting sun reflects off the water. The ambient reflections of tree foliage and light are precisely waning when this image is captured, in order to emphasis temporal shifts. As a photograph the image is fixed, though the time of day implies a constantly changing and slowly disappearing image. Each photograph, once taken, cannot be revisited, as the specific vantage point at that specific time cannot be repeated.

The photographs of the same pieces of glass in two different sites, when seen together, provide a key to the parsing of the image. The painted reflection is unchanged in every case, while the background that the glass is positioned on and the ambient reflections provide glimpses of the site in which the piece is located. The site becomes abstracted, however, through the cropping of the photograph and the fracturing of the reflection. The emphasis shifts from the specificity of site to the subtle differences of texture and light between the two places. The time and distance between the two sites is also alluded to, generating the insight that this glass tree is ultimately portable. Any place it is rearranged, it will reflect indiscriminately. This portability provides a way to see the photographs as instances of images, without finality, but rather part of a process that can continue to generate images. To return to my initial definition of the shift, finding meaning in-between or within the overlap of terms, I feel this is where the crux of this project lies. The challenge for me has been that I cannot locate the artwork in any one place, time, or material. The liminal spaces within this process have become the most meaningful for me, which is why I like to encourage the search for differences between images and the emphasis of the portability of the piece. A certain behavior has been established, but I am yet unsure what form best reflects its shifting character.