Spotlight on an Artist: Vanessa Marsh
Vanessa Marsh is a visual artist from Seattle Washington now living and working in Oakland, CA. Although the end result of most of her work is photography, she engages with drawing, painting and sculpture to create her images. She has received fellowships from Headlands Center for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony and Kala Art Institute. Her work can be seen at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, CA, Kala Gallery in Berkeley, CA and Julie Nester Gallery in Park City, UT.
Always Close But Never Touching
To make the images, I construct miniature scenes out of models and natural elements such as moss and grass and photograph them against real backgrounds. Inspiration for the scenes is drawn from memories of human interactions and the experiences of the landscapes of Northern California and Western Washington.
The specific details of the memories have been transformed over time in my mind—influenced by subsequent observations, events, and occurrences. As memory is a combination of both real and imagined elements so too are the photographs. Alluding to different locations and experiences simultaneously, the images are of unknown, imagined places yet are also evocative of something familiar. Ultimately, the images reference a shared experience of isolation.
I create dreamlike spaces that are at once anonymous and entirely personal. Rooted in imagination and memory the images represent locations that are suspended in both time and place, with no before or after.
–San Francisco 2008
Everywhere All at Once
Sometimes there is a hazy, almost tropical light that falls over the Bay Area. The moisture in the air falls on the landscape and makes it appear as a series of two-dimensional planes intricately layered together. When I see this light, I imagine these individual planes of landscape each moving freely along independent trajectories. In my imagination, the landscape becomes one of dislocated landmarks, geography and infrastructure, constantly changing. Within the series Everywhere All at Once I bring to form these imagined landscapes and combine them with intensely starlit skies, highlighting both a personal as well as a collective experience of the world. My goal is to make images that are familiar and dreamlike, evocative of an almost unreachable memory.
Looking out over the landscape the night sky provides a reminder of the smallness of our existence and also the vast possibilities inherent to our experience. It provides a connection between distant individuals, a jumping off point for belief systems, and an interstellar reference that helps us to navigate our world. For me, more than anything, the night sky provides a sense of space and infinity that is at once the essence of openness and possibility and also terrifyingly complex and unfathomable.
I remember as a child the first time I looked intently out into a starry sky. I was away at summer camp up in the San Juan Islands and we were sleeping outside in a field by our cabin. It was dark enough to see the Milky Way; so dense it looked like a large smudge of light across the sky. Our counselor explained to us that the light we were seeing took so much time and crossed so much space that the stars it was coming from may not even exist anymore. I don’t remember when I fell asleep that night, but I know it was awhile that I lay there staring up, my heart pounding, realizing the vastness.
-Vanessa Marsh, Oakland, 2014
Vanessa Marsh, Two Cars and a Lamp Post, from the series Always Close But Never Touching
Vanessa Marsh, Woman Walking, from the series Always Close But Never Touching
Vanessa Marsh, Bikers, from the series Always Close But Never Touching
Vanessa Marsh, Landscape #8, from the series Everywhere All at Once
Vanessa Marsh, Landscape #12 from the series Everywhere All at Once