Shawn S. Barker

Artifacts of the Sublime

Sir Edmund Burke and subsequent writers described the sublime as coming from a sense of possible danger or pain. This was a particularly relatable description of the source of the sublime for me while rock climbing. It is definitely a sublime experience to find yourself sitting perched on a wall of rock, high above the ground, protected only by your climbing partner and a bolt or stopper jammed into a crack ten feet below. Standing at the base of a cirque, with towering peaks all around you, sensing the powers that would have slowly carved out the space you now stand in is a very humbling and sublime experience.

Like works by Earth artists such as Walter De Maria, the sublime isn’t just the setting for the work, but is part of the work. The photographic images that come out of the camera literally become part of the earth and the earth becomes part of the image as the photographic object develops. This process, in which I am a participant, references the often violent, sublime, geological processes that created the formations, vistas, and spaces we now enjoy as visually sublime.

Although the ideas that romantic/transcendental era painters had about their mediums are no longer relevant, their perspectives on Nature are. No matter how big we make our buildings or vast our networks and infrastructures, we are still subject to the forces and processes of the natural world.

Danger in the Light

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