March 20, 2023
This week we recognize Krista Leigh Steinke Krista Leigh Steinke, and her interdisciplinary lens-based practice focused on the interconnection between human experience and the natural world.
"Inspired by spirit photography and post-mortem photography from the late 19th century, Purgatory Road, 2010 - 2014 (above)chronicles my experimentation with the photo medium while exploring the fragility of life. The project takes its title from an actual place where I live in the summer months – a wooded region divided by a dirt-covered path. Local legends and folklore surround this road, where the land on one side slopes down into a dark, cavernous area while a lush, peaceful green forest grows on the opposite side. Rooted in my concern for the environment, these images serve as metaphors for the concept of purgatory as an in-between state; a place where visual and conceptual polarities intersect and become blurry."
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The Earth is Not a Spaceship, 2016 (above) is an experimental film that remixes vintage educational source footage collected by the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. A woman’s voice narrates the film, functioning as a type of mother nature character. The narration becomes haunting and robotic when coupled with glitchy film footage that has been re-recorded off of various electronic devices. The reworking of the footage presents new meaning at the intersection of abstraction, the digital sublime, and an implied dystopian future.
"After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, I started thinking about cycles...cycles in the weather, cycles in nature, and cycles in one’s lifetime. I thought about how a natural disaster can suddenly and unexpectedly interrupt the cycle of daily life and how recovery efforts quickly become integrated into our day to day routine. 40 Days After the Storm, 2018 (above) is not specifically about the Houston flood but a response to the disaster - a project that aims to poetically address the idea of aftermath and resilience. The installation chronicles the days following Hurricane Harvey. Daily samples from the flood site (debris from homes, dead insects, fallen branches, even a lizard that drowned) were placed inside homemade pinhole cameras and left in my yard for 40 days – one specimen a day, one camera at a time. During the extended exposure, the path of the rising and setting sun combined with watermarks from the rain become layered with shadowy objects that appear to be floating in water. Here, the microscopic world of an insect becomes entwined with the larger universe in the sky. Each specimen represents a small moment or story that points to loss, survival, or recovery. Collectively, these seemingly insignificant objects become part of a bigger picture — a reference to how the ordinary everyday can be shaped by an epic event such as a flood or natural disaster."
Sun Notations, 2018 (above) is part of a larger body of work that focuses on the sun as both a subject and creative tool to reflect upon our physical and psychological connection to our planet’s closest star. For this project, pinhole cameras (made from soda cans, cookie tins, and other small containers) capture the sun’s pathway over time, with exposures that can last from a few hours up to two years. The cameras, which sometimes contain multiple pinholes, are rotated periodically, so the rhythm of the sun’s movement becomes a drawing process or mark-making system, like the routine of crossing days off a calendar. Light leaks, dirt, water damage, embedded dead bugs, even rips in the paper, become part of the visual alchemy and function as metaphors for the delicate balance we share with the physical world. Here, time and space expand, overlap, and then dissipate as clusters of dust appear like stars and the landscape morphs into abstraction. Titles for the images, such as “Since you’ve been gone” or “70 days after the election,” frame exposures around personal and collective experience, giving the work a diaristic context, inviting viewers to consider how our lives align with the cosmic cycles.
Sun Mapping, 2022 (below) is an experimental video that animates the pathway of the sun juxtaposed with imagery of natural specimens collected along the Gulf Coast. The project, a unique merging of analog and digital processes, is a poetic exploration of the symbiotic relationship between the oceanfront landscape, its ecosystem, and the greater cosmos.
Krista Leigh Steinke is an interdisciplinary lens-based artist working in moving image, experimental photography, and collage. Her work fluctuates between the photographic and the abstract to present poetic reflections on time, place, perception, and the interconnection between human experience and the natural world. With the use of pinhole cameras, homemade filters, and other unconventional techniques, she draws meaning from her materials and process, often exploring photo media as a point of inquiry or embracing it as a catalyst for new possibilities such as an installation or a stop-frame animation. Informed by various sources (from art and photographic history, science and star maps, memory and the female perspective, to current events and the weather), her creative research often takes a diaristic form as a way to illustrate how the personal, social, and universal intertwine. The plight of insects, the pathway of the sun, a hurricane, a global pandemic – she is interested in both the obvious and more mysterious ways that nature impacts our lives while calling attention to broader issues surrounding the environment and our shared community. www.kristasteinke.com
Featured Images (top to bottom): ©Krista Leigh Steinke,Purgatory Road, 2010 - 2014;The Earth is Not a Spaceship, 2016, created for "Mess With Texas," co-presented by TAMI and the Aurora Picture Show, Texas;40 Days After the Storm, 2018; Sun Notations, 2018; Sun Mapping, 2022, commissioned for The Port of Corpus Christi Authority Building, Texas, curated by Mary Magsamen and sponsored by The Aurora Picture Show and The Weingarten Art Group, image by Magsamen; portrait of the artist.