24 Works on Paper Artist: M.J. Alexander

July 8, 2013

24 Works on Paper |
Guest Author: Jessika Davis OVAC Intern
M. J. Alexander, Oklahoma City, Cloud Cabin: Kiowa County, Photography, 24” x 16”
MJ Alexander, Oklahoma City

M.J. Alexander’s photograph personifies the natural elements of aging architecture, focusing her camera on an abandoned farmhouse entitled Cloud Cabin: Kiowa County. She reveals the beauty of deterioration in black and white. She captured rambunctious yet stunning storm clouds and the effect that they have on a rusty and worn farmhouse in Kiowa County.

What was your inspiration? What made you chose to display this subject with this type of medium?
For five years I’d passed a sagging farmhouse on the horizon, each time glancing at its silhouette to see if it had survived another season. It was in a far-off field, with no obvious roads, and I always was in a hurry to get somewhere else. 

In June 2012, the time came it stop. The house looked like it was in danger of being crushed by an approaching wall of clouds. There was no clear path, but I zigzagged my way across a checkerboard of dirt roads to edge closer and closer.

Close up, the house pulsated with life. Its planks, aged and buffed into a silver gray patina, creaked with the wind, seemingly straining against the weight of the thunderhead. 

The wind caused the surviving shingles, each anchored to the decaying roof by a single rusty nail, to ruffle and ripple, pumping up and down like keys of a ghostly pipe organ. Inside, the house’s remaining ribs inhaled slowly and exhaled deeply with each gust, breathing in and out, a great wooden fish beached on the plains of Kiowa County.

I explored in and out, then edged back across the field to convey the resilience of the long- abandoned house against the towering clouds.

In photography, what techniques do you use? 
My approach to photography is pretty straightforward. Most of my time is spent searching for a memorable face, a surprising angle, an epic moment, the ideal light, rather than messing around too much in post-production. I come from a journalistic background and believe that the veracity and power of an image can be undercut by over-manipulation. 

As for equipment, I’ve always liked the attitude of masters like Arnold Newman and Ansel Adams. Newman once said: “A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” Adams philosophy: “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

This artist’s work will be featured in the 24 Works on Paper exhibition touring Oklahoma through December 2014. See venues and more information at www.24works.org