Gary Cawood began his ongoing body of photographs, Excavation, in 2006. “Since the natural landscape is considered expendable in our culture, the surface scars we create seemed like an intriguing subject to explore,” he explains. “I selected sites that were excavated long ago, and at first I focused on the surprising forms and colors created by erosion. Soon I began adding throwaways to the compositions. Like the land, much of the stuff we buy is considered disposable and makes its way to sites like these. I utilized the scarred landscape as a context for the stuff we abandon.” In the latest images in the evolving project, Cawood finds himself drawn to “the castoffs of the landscape itself rather than man-made stuff. By focusing more on the natural elements, the recent work emphasizes the ability of the landscape to recover and reinvent itself, even as we continue to disrupt its inherent balance.”
The word excavation suggests archeological digging. But “while archeologists try to reconstruct a logical narrative from discarded objects, my purpose is to create a more poetic interpretation,” Cawood states. “I carefully select the items to be included in the compositions, based on an intuitive sense of the contradictions inherent in our culture and in our environment.”
“Essentially I’m doing still life using whatever I find at the excavated site—mud, rock, ash or plant material—as part of the setup. This staged approach, focusing on relatively small details, tends to emphasize formal order, and indeed I delight in the contemplative aspect of view camera work. But I also consciously mimic the haphazard look of the discarded, which can in turn be ordered by the process of seeing photographically.”
As he continues this ongoing body of work, Cawood observes, “there seems to be a growing awareness of the havoc our lifestyles impose on the environment. I’m hopeful that a more sustainable lifestyle will emerge from our depleted economy, and that future generations will have the wisdom to capitalize on the possibilities of less. Such a transformation would require a creative mindset, a vision based on real needs and higher aspirations.”
Gary Cawood received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Auburn University in 1970, and after service as a VISTA in the Pittsburgh Architect’s Workshop, began a serious study of photography in 1972, receiving a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from East Tennessee State University in 1976. He has taught at the University of Delaware and Louisiana Tech University, and is currently Professor and Head of the Photography Area at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Cawood’s photographs have been widely exhibited throughout the United States, including over sixty solo shows. He has received Visual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and the Arkansas Arts Council. His work is included in numerous public collections, including the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, the Amon Carter Museum, and the New Orleans Museum of Art. His website is garycawood.com.
Gary Cawood: Crash Landing
Gary Cawood: Crushed Globe
Gary Cawood: Mickey
Gary Cawood: Trumpet Vine Flower