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Patricia Carr Morgan - Portrait

“I love you don’t leave me”

- Patricia Carr Morgan’s plea to Earth

Born in the Midwestern USA, Patricia Carr Morgan quotes her early exposure to film, nostalgia, mythology, and nature as ongoing resources for her creative process. Patricia Carr Morgan is a Tucson-based conceptual artist who explores memory, loss, and reality through sculpture, interdisciplinary installation, and photography. With her new series, Morgan has expanded her longtime interest in photography and how the lens can be used for storytelling to raise awareness of our planet’s beauty, love and loss. Her recent art series, “I love you don’t leave me”, echoes memories of glaciers disappearing into the oceans in Greenland and Antarctica.

One of Patricia Carr Morgan’s earliest memories as an artist arches back to her High School years, when her house blew up – the basement filled with gas and 5 minutes later there was nothing left. “I never thought of it in this context,” she says. Remembering clothes hanging from trees seems to be a fitting parallel to her use of different materials from our culture, other people’s memorabilia, looking at loss and gathering together. Looking back, this experience had a big impact on what she would think about objects, materials and titles; that everything was there to be used and manipulated as opposed to having a straight path and being known as a painter or  sculptor. “When I was a little girl I asked my mum if I could take painting lessons from this lady in town, and she said no. She said, ‘She just has people copy pictures they choose out of a magazine and that’s not art’. I still remember that, and in a way,  it shaped my mind, anything I thought of, could be art as long as I thought of it.” When she went to college, her thought was to be practical so Patricia took business. One semester later, she switched to Art History, with a minor in studio. Then she went on to get her MFA in interdisciplinary art from the University of Arizona. During that time photography was a requirement, and even if she was busy with painting and sculpture, she learned how personal photography really is. “I thought that if everybody took a picture of the same statue, the same door, the same person it was all going to be pretty much the same because they were taking the same picture. But what did I know? In this class, it was so obvious how personal every assignment became and how expressive it was. I was surprised how personal mine were. The things that I thought of to fulfil the assignment. I would do them and realized that I had revealed something about myself unintentionally. So, photography became an important tool for me even though I didn’t use it in all my work.” 

Antarctica 2008-17 # 3

Patricia Carr Morgan had done two prior series using photography. Here, with this series she actually didn’t go to the Antarctic with the idea of doing a photographic series. When Carr Morgan arrived, “I was swept off my feet. It looked like nothing I had ever seen before.” She marvels. Going out in a zodiac, she had the opportunity to create a lot of photographs, and go on many hikes. “I had a thousand pictures of penguins.” She laughs. Besides those, her excursions also resulted in photographs at sea, going through the small gorges with the clouds and the fog. The idea of clean and sharp photography seemed impossible since all the photographs were taken either from the ship or the zodiac and 90% of the time, taken while  in motion. “In Antarctica, I was overwhelmed by the scale of unending whiteness. It was intimidating and dangerous, but it was also the most sublime piece of earth I had ever seen. I headed for Greenland to see more. I see now–everything is not fine.” Carr Morgan then started to describe the glaciers leaving the earth inching their way to the sea, crevices opening into their depth, glaciers cracking and crashing into the sea. She also remembers the sounds: a certain swell, and then only a whisper as the ice floats away, disappearing into the warming sea. When she went home and started working through all the photographs, it was clear that it was her next project. “It really was like making a good friend.” She says. Patricia then started a process she never really tried before. She printed the photographs in colour. Then, she repeated the same process but in black and white, she quickly realized that through this process she was continuously learning more about them. That’s why Patricia describes it as making a friend. She kept exploring and learning more. “The whole time I was working on it I kept thinking ‘How do I express the fragility and abuse. How do I manage this to really tell the story and talk about how I’m feeling about these, the sense of loss and awe?’” Ice has the power to carve through mountains, to create prairies and lakes, but its strength diminishes as the glaciers melt. Knowing that what she had documented was gradually disappearing made her art both more urgent and poignant. Her sense of impending loss intensified as she experimented—with realism and abstraction, with materials and processes—to express her feelings and concerns. Carr Morgan experimented a lot: printing them on 25 different papers, Japanese paper and fine art paper, to find the right medium, painting on them with coal was the next step while remaining thoughtful about the emotion of the gesture, what it meant and how it was applied. “That was just one step of abuse, but there the image was still whole. When I got back into my darkroom, I re-photographed my prints with expired abused film and I never knew what was the expected result. In a way I felt like it was as appropriate as a scientist telling us what’s going to happen, it’s diminishing, but we don’t know how fast and things keep happening that scientists don’t really expect and they’re getting more data and it’s ever-changing.” I love you don’t leave me, is a plea like a universal loss. It starts with the beauty of nature, the fragility, the delicacy and then it begins disintegrating, as a continual loss. “The more I work with the material, the more I feel the loss. It’s like watching a good friend fighting an illness.” Patricia keeps speaking about this series in a personal way but it is clear that it’s the kind of impact it had on her. This title is a plea, it’s not angry, let’s care for this.

The series includes the art installation, “Blue Tears”. It features Morgan’s images of glaciers on 17 x 10 feet printed layers of endangered silk organza suspended from the ceiling before they are released and float to the floor, echoing the irreparable loss of our glaciers as they disappear due to climate change. Morgan’s photography also accompanies this series through various conceptual explorations. From straightforward landscape photography to altering the images with carbon-based pigments and coal residue to exploiting expired colour film—these photographs explore the loss that neglect inflicts over time. “The silk made it so beautiful when it was falling, people really understood. Some even cried. I’ve been reading a lot more about climate change. And I think it was the real purpose of the work. To bring it to people in a way that was personal, rather than just thinking that climate change is something out there with no impact on their lives.”

Greenland 2015-17 #3
Greenland 2015-17

For most of us climate change seems so far in the future or unlikely, that we don’t have to think about it, but here by bringing it to us through emotions and a vision without scientific input, hopefully, Patricia Carr Morgan will make people think in a more personal way. It’s possible that our current pandemic situation will end up opening people’s eyes on universal catastrophe. I love you don’t leave me examines the catastrophic effect of climate change through a multifaceted body of work built on the artist’s photographs of glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland. From the relative safety of an inflatable boat, Carr Morgan focused not on the majesty of the monolithic icebergs but on the sculptural forms and fractured ice that constitute our continental ice sheets. Shedding a light on the endangered Arctic environment.

Words by Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle

Photos provided by artist

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