My work explores lens-based practice as a mode of representation allowing for poetic and critical engagement with culturally charged sites of significance, as well as those presumed to be neutral. The resulting imagery is at once metaphoric and banal, emphasizing the arbitrary relevance of the distinct forms pictured. Combining a documentary approach with direct intervention, my process incorporates multiple reproductive methods including digital imaging, film, and video. Sensitive to the role of the camera in contributing to the proliferation of familiar, constructed images of landscape, I made a deliberate decision in recent years to incorporate (potentially) less mediated photographic processes including cyanotype prints and other UV-based contact exposure methods.
Working between and within the still and moving image, my projects examine the role of these media in shaping personal and social understandings of our environment through site-responsive engagement. Drawing on conventions of photography and cinema as emblematic of archived experience, the premise of evidentiary authenticity is deliberately probed via found and fabricated situations that are traced, replicated and transformed. Expansive presentation modes place sequential and composite imagery in relation as imperfectly contiguous screen-based and print forms, stressing the fragmentary nature of perceptual response. The ephemeral state implied by the time-based recording of physical elements is distinct from the printed reproduction – a stable frame that persists, suggesting all matter is sound enough to endure inevitable and relentless shifts, however benign or catastrophic. This approach purposefully unravels our collective understanding of the perceived world – and by extension, our struggle to orient ourselves within a shared global space that is rapidly transforming.
Mineral House Media: What is your history as an artist? Where did you first find your passion or inspiration to create? What brought to you where you are now?
Dawn Roe: Hmm…such a tough one. I didn’t necessarily grow up thinking I wanted to be an artist, but was always just pretty curious about the world, generally - lots of looking and thinking, and questioning from a young age, I guess. From my late teenage years to mid-twenties I took a pretty meandering path that eventually led me away from my home state of Michigan to Portland, Oregon where I would live for 10 years in the 1990s and end up completing my undergraduate degree in art at a small college with a really strong BFA program just outside Portland called Marylhurst. I found my way to Marylhurst via the Northwest Film Center where I was initially studying experimental cinema. They had a cooperative program with Marylhust, which worked out great for me. The faculty in both of these programs had a profound impact on me and remain mentors and friends.
That decade in Portland was a transformative time for me, and certainly shaped my ideas around art and artmaking. My formal education was juxtaposed with the DIY culture embedded in my shared community of punk and indie musicians, writers, zine makers - artists of every variety really. There was fantastic energy and joy, but there was a flipside as well. Many of us struggled with mental health and substance abuse issues, and there was loss along the way. During my final year of undergraduate study, I made the decision to leave Portland and began applying to grad school. As I was already 30 years old at the time, going right into grad school made sense for me, as I was eager to work with a new group of faculty and fellow artists and just really needed to leave Portland. This decision turned out to be the right one, as my three years in the Studio Art MFA program at Illinois State University were equally pivotal, bringing me to a healthier mental and physical space. It was here my focus shifted from working with photography in a more traditional, documentary style to a more expansive mode that led me to begin staging works and considering working with the moving image again.
MHM: What sort of music do you like to listen to? Does it directly inform the vocal sound components of some of your work?
DR: Like most people, it’s a pretty wide variety, but I do tend to veer between extremes - from intensely bombastic and scream-y to more somber, melancholy and melodic sorts. I worked in a somewhat infamous club in Portland for years called Satyricon, known for hosting punk and garage acts as well as indie singer/songwriters. A lot of what I listen to would have been played there, either live or on the jukebox - too many bands/people to list, really. But I’ve always listened to a lot of old soul music as well. And yes, all these things directly inform the vocal components of my work for sure. Portland musician and artist Rachel Blumberg contributed her beautiful voice to one of my video works, The Sunshine Bores | The Daylights, and a group of Portland musician friends (Jerry (A.) Lang; Jillian Wieseneck; Dan Eccles; Jennifer Shepard; Dean Miles) produced the audio components to my most recent project, Wretched Yew. Jen Shepard’s vocal track is a hugely vital piece to that video, including a blood curdling scream that gives me chills in the very best way every time I hear it.
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Mineral House Media was founded in 2017 as an online curatorial collective focused on the enrichment of personal practice through the elevation of working contemporary artists. We strive to connect artists across the Southeast and beyond through a series of online residencies, interviews, podcasts, mini-documentaries, and annual exhibitions.