Ryan James MacFarland (b. 1985) creates photographs that address the intangible and transitory qualities of landscape. His images are born out of an overwhelming obsession with nature and its mechanics, notably Tide Study, a series capturing the moon above bodies of water before nightfall. MacFarland’s compositions are usually devoid of of human presence and are sometimes comprised of triptychs or pairings, or reproductions of the same image arranged in quadrants, forming a central diamond shape, suggesting the symmetry and patterns that exist in nature. His photographs reveal how he sees the natural world and attempt to break down the complex systems of nature to their base elements. MacFarland received a BFA in Photography & Imaging from New York University in 2006, and his work has been exhibited internationally.
An Armory Week exhibition at the Uprise Art Outpost, featuring two bodies of work, paintings from Anthony Cudahy‘s Heaven Inside and photographs from Ryan James MacFarland‘s Secret Wisdom.
Secret Wisdom | Ryan James Macfarland
Secret Wisdom, MacFarland’s newest body of work, focuses on the mythology of place, vanity, and sexuality, and how that can exist within a landscape, object, or space. This series marks a shift away from the abstract, non-objective landscapes and still life’s of his previous series, reflections on a lifelong investigation into the phenomenological qualities of nature. This work remains observational and continues to be concerned with the intangible and transitory qualities of the world – both phenomenological and mythological.
The series began by revisiting a photograph from 2009 (Buttonhook), shot in MacFarland’s high school locker room in northern Florida – a universally nostalgic space with subversive undertones. By mixing previously shot negatives with recently taken images, MacFarland creates an enigmatic narrative in this body of work.
Further, this work is extremely personal. Through photographing and fetishizing a variety of archetypal places, familiar subjects, and textured surfaces, this work attempts to instill a sense of déjà vu and connect deeply to the feelings of solidarity and confusion that arise from knowing something that no one else does.
These subjects exist entirely in reality and the photographs are unaltered, yet they endeavor to remain enigmatic. The resulting images become equally ephemeral and perpetual. While these photographs represent secrets told to no one else, the resulting tension and balance within them strives to be universally understood.
Heaven Inside | Anthony Cudahy
"The title Heaven Inside comments on the domesticity of the scenes, while also acknowledging a feeling of purgatory. Within this work, I’ve focused on types of light, specifically phosphorescent kinds. I extend a photographic image, pushing and pulling it so that the final painting functions more like a memory. The source materials are found photographs. They are fragments, cropped and transformed. Some are from my own family archives. Many others are from families apart from mine. It’s not important to know which are which. The majority of the subjects are people unknown to me.
The series began with the painting Night Walk, in which I transformed the daytime source into a late-night scene. This color setting influenced the other paintings, which begin to operate by their own color logic and glow. Night Walk stands as both the initiator of this series of paintings, as well as the crux; an outlier in a group of mostly domestic interior scenes.
Several works in the series remind me of the final scene of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In the film, Marcello is kicked out of a party held in an Italian villa and finds his way to the seaside. The woman in Night Walk similarly descends from the known, domestic world behind her toward something unknown. As dawn sets in the film, a group surrounds a creature rejected from the sea. The monster is large, grotesque, and mysterious, signifying something cruel and dark, outside of our limited realm of understanding. I like thinking about the people still inside the villa while outside the sea is dragging an unintelligible statement from its depths.
The subjects of Heaven Inside exist in a similar world, where just out of the frame they are confronted by the sublime. They are ephemeral scenes and function like memories. In this way, each painting itself is a memento mori."
- Ryan James MacFarlandBrooklyn, NYArtist Page