Presence by Janelle Lynch

Issue 85

In 2006, I was introduced to the American artist Charles Burchfield's work and identified with his reverence for nature and anthropomorphic vision of the landscape. Seven years later, in 2013, I was named the Burchfield Penney Art Center's first Artist-in-Residence. Presence is the series of 15 photographs that I made throughout the year with an 8x10 inch camera in the landscape across from Burchfield's former residence, now a nature preserve, in Buffalo, NY.

I began my residency by studying Burchfield's paintings, journals, and writings related to solitude and I read Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a meditation on her discoveries during a year of observing nature in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She, like Burchfield, was inspired by Henry David Thoreau's nature writings and transcendental philosophy, which posits that the natural world is formed and informed by spirits and that its elements are symbols of a greater spirituality.

Despite my focus on solitude, what I experienced in Buffalo was not isolation at all, but, in fact, a strong sense of accompaniment. I was bolstered by the generous—indeed, unprecedented—support of colleagues at the Center, who were present to guide and provide me with resources and opportunities that enriched my experience. What emerged was a series of portraits of trees and still lives that depict coupled saplings and intertwined vines with circular motifs.

I titled the images with the names of the creative progenitors of the environmental movement and other influences important to my residency: Presence 5, Charles Burchfield; Presence 8, Wendell Berry, the environmental activist and writer; Presence 7, Annie Dillard; Presence 10, Tony Bannon, Executive Director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center and a long-time mentor; Presence 2, Nancy Weekly, Burchfield scholar, Head of Collections and the Charles Cary Rumsey Curator at the Burchfield Penney Art Center; and Presence 13, Josephine N. Cusimano, my grandmother, who raised me in a nearby Western New York landscape and whose love for the natural world cultivated my own.

Presence was on view at the Burchfield Penney Art Center in 2014. The exhibition will tour with 20 Burchfield drawings and be accompanied by a Radius Books publication.

Janelle Lynch lives and works in New York, NY.
To view more of Janelle's work, please visit her website.

  Presence 1, Tullis Johnson

Presence 1, Tullis Johnson

  Presence 10, Tony Bannon

Presence 10, Tony Bannon

  Presence 13, Josephine M. Cusimano

Presence 13, Josephine M. Cusimano

  Presence 16, Anya Sacharow

Presence 16, Anya Sacharow

  Presence 2, Nancy Weekly

Presence 2, Nancy Weekly

  Presence 3, Bertha Koltenuik

Presence 3, Bertha Koltenuik

  Presence 5, Charles Burchfield

Presence 5, Charles Burchfield

  Presence 14, James Cusimano

Presence 14, James Cusimano

  Presence 17, Nancy Weekly

Presence 17, Nancy Weekly

  Presence 8, Wendell Berry

Presence 8, Wendell Berry

  Presence 9, Peter & Ilene Fleischmann

Presence 9, Peter & Ilene Fleischmann

  Presence 4, David Penberg

Presence 4, David Penberg

  Presence 7, Annie Dillard

Presence 7, Annie Dillard

  Presence 6, Scott Propeack

Presence 6, Scott Propeack

  Presence 11, Donna DeWitt

Presence 11, Donna DeWitt