Gregory Spaid’s recent work includes a photography project that explores the vital role trees play in our lives. For this project he has traveled throughout the United States and has been awarded artist residencies at the Brush Creek Foundation in Wyoming, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, Congaree National Park in South Carolina, as well as the Sonoran Artist Residency in Ajo, Arizona. He is also at work on a project photographing the dance-like movement of people on the street of New York City for a series of abstract images titled Pedestrians. His photography on the changing landscape of rural America was included in a major group exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angles titled “Where We Live.” As well as the Getty, his work is in other major collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. He received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to Italy and is the recipient of eight grants from the Ohio Art Council. Spaid has published two monographs on his photography: Grace: Photograph of Rural America in 2000 and On Nantucket in 2002. In 2010 the Getty Museum published his work in a historical survey titled The Tree in Photography. Spaid taught studio art at Kenyon College in rural Ohio, where he has also served at the college’s provost.
I have been reading a good many short stories lately, especially the incredible stories of Alice Munro. What fascinates me about short stories is how much of the story is left for the reader to fill in and complete. A skillful writer gives us just enough to lead us in the right direction and to activate our imaginations. I am trying something similar here with this series of photo assemblages.
Another motivation for this work is my desire to make something tangible and three-dimensional. After spending the past few years on an extensive project of digital photography that required countless hours before a screen, I long to make something with my hands, something that is an object and not an image, something I can touch and that may evoke the sense of touch for others. Because they emphasize touch, I often use actual tools here in combination with black and white photographs made “by hand” in the darkroom. I want the combination of the object, image and title to function in the manner of a very short story.
What this work is about is less clear to me. I think this series is has something to do with the precarious relationship we have with nature. It may also be about resolving dichotomies, paying attention, digging deeper, slowing down, finding balance, and letting go.
Bio and headshot courtesy of the artist.