Megan Cump

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untitled (sea), 2013

Gelatin Silver, 20" x 24"

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My recent series “Black Moon” constructs a world swallowed by darkness—terrains that skirt the visible. For me, the dark is itself a wilderness of sorts, full of the promise of the unknown. It is fitting that the locations I have photographed: underground caves, deep woods, skies and oceans, conjure up mythic tales of transformation and the underworld. Some of these landscapes are inhabited by wild creatures, including a fox, ghostly white deer, and a shadowy woman who, in one photograph, floats in water black as the night, bringing to mind the ancient Hermetic axiom “as above, so below.” This woman is, in fact, myself, but one could argue that all of the figures, even the animals, are enigmatic self-portraits.

Replete with auspicious meteor showers, darkened suns and subterranean passages, these photographs transport us, suggesting the other side of things. Stars appear to burn through the atmosphere and the evening sky fills with otherworldly light and color. The vivid flames are produced by deliberately introducing light leaks that simultaneously destroy and create anew the imagery on the negatives. In the past the night imparted fundamental knowledge, serving as navigational field, timekeeper, and source of cosmologies. Distinctions were not drawn between scientific observation, spirituality, and art. Recent research suggests that some Paleolithic cave paintings are also prehistoric star maps—the stray dots and dashes overlaid on depictions of animals mark the earliest constellations.

My work draws from folktales, spirit photography, epic poems, and the alchemy of analog photography. It connects photography's historical relationship with making the unseen visible with tales of metamorphoses, animism, and the netherworld.

Artworks by Megan Cump

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