Page 64 - 04-June-2024
P. 64

   Never As Brave Digital April Dean, Futures Barren / Futures Abundant (photo still), Print on Film, 40” x 27,” 2021, stop motion HD video
from The Wet T-Shirt
Series: 2013-2016
64 EDify. JUNE.24
sense of possibility or longing. “We are almost always never dreaming,” reads one passage, printed across a t-shirt in one of Dean’s Wet T-Shirt prints. By stacking adverbs, Dean creates two extremes — always and never — and asks a viewer to sit in the vastness between them with the question: Are we usually dreaming, or are we never dreaming enough?
In 2018, after her epiphany, Dean applied for a residency at the Banff Centre with the conscious goal of steering her practice toward subjects she cared about. The result was a pairing of pho- tography, which Dean describes as her first true love and houseplants. In Banff she began to play, creating still lifes of plant clippings, using cameras and digital scanners. The resulting images walk the line between the ordinary and the extraordinary. For one series, Dean scanned plant clippings on a flatbed scanner with the top left open. A skylight, positioned above the scanner, shows up in the images as a stretch
of blue amid an otherwise black background. The clippings, which hover at the centre of the image, feel holy, almost godly.
In the past, Dean’s work has had an intangible quality to it. Her use of language, her empty wet t-shirts — even her cyanotypes — suggest
absence. With houseplants, Dean feels newly focused on what is there, rather than what isn’t. In both houseplants and photography, she seems to have found the perfect vessels for thinking about time, and about how we live.
Dean’s work often draws on the quotidian, infusing it with a sense of the sublime. Yet in conversation, she has a habit of referring to her work as boring — which she sees as a good thing (“What a privilege to be bored!”).
Sitting across from her, I wonder if boredom is another way for Dean to play with the feeling of time. “When I get into a studio situation... there is an absolute slowing of time.” In her work, that slowing feels like an invitation — like she is hoping viewers, through slowness, might have lightbulb moments of their own.
A few days after we speak, I text Dean with more questions. She’s hard at work on final images for In Violet Light, and she sends me a few. They are playful, considered. They mix plant life with various plastics — something Dean has been thinking a lot about lately. I’m zoomed in on a small pink blossom when another message arrives. This time it’s just text: “I’ve been shooting new still-life photos every night this week and I’m having so much fun.” ED.

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