Mercurial Gallery Presents “Selva Fantasma: Images from the Undeforestation Project”
The Mercurial Gallery to Present “Selva Fantasma: Images from the Undeforestation Project”
By Amanda Bloom
DANBURY, CONNECTICUT’S Mercurial Gallery will be exhibiting “Selva Fantasma: Images from the Undeforestation Project”, a photographic installation by Summer Moore and Marissa Macias, from December 31 to March 2, 2012.
Selva Fantasma (Jungle Ghost) is a selection of photographs from Moore and Macias’ ongoing collaboration with the Rainforest Foundation, The Undeforestation Project, which aims to document, revere and conserve the rainforests of the Amazon. The exhibit’s opening reception will take place on Saturday, December 31 from 4pm to 8pm as a part of First Night Danbury.
Macias and Moore met in 2005 while in their first year at New York City’s Parsons The New School for Design, and over the years, they have built a strong friendship as well as an instinctive artistic collaborative. Although their individual photography styles are quite different, both Macias and Moore have found that their collaborations are oddly connective and harmonious.
The Undeforestation Project began as a trip to Peru during which each artist planned to work independently. Then, a few weeks after Moore bought plane tickets, she approached Macias with the idea of creating a book of photographs of the Amazon, and the trip transformed into an inspired ecological mission.
“I remember saying to myself as we hiked through the jungle, ‘Wow, this place really exists, it’s not a myth,'” recalled Moore in an email interview. “And with that comes this intense desire to want to preserve it, not only for its absolute beauty, but because it’s a home to many communities who are having a difficult time fending for themselves. Illegal logging, gas concessions, oil leaks, pollution, disease. It’s absolutely terrible what is happening to the Amazon and its population. We recognize this and wanted to use what we love, photography, as a way to give back.”
Moore and Macias decided that the entirety of the proceeds from their project would support the communities that live within the Amazon, those who are “the best protectors” of the rainforest, as Moore remarked. This goal aligns perfectly with that of the Rainforest Foundation, whose mission, according to their website, is “to support indigenous and traditional people of the world’s rainforests in their efforts to protect their environment and fulfill their rights.” As Moore and Macias worked out the details of Undeforestation, things began to fall into place in very serendipitous ways.
“As we did more research, we noticed that Sting and Trudie Styler had started the foundation,” said Moore. “By chance, I had worked with Mrs. Styler’s makeup artist and contacted him with our idea. He forwarded the email and within days we got a message from their executive director saying they’d love to discuss our project.”
Moore and Macias took their two-week trip to Peru in May of 2010, flying into Lima and traveling throughout southern and mid-Peru. There was such affinity for the Underforestation Project that all of the lodgings throughout their trip were donated.
“Being there felt like being in borrowed time and space,” Macias marveled in an email interview. “We had much to interpret and there was weight, purpose, and limitations to our presence. It reminded me of Belize, but it was spikier, sometimes cool, and smelled like wet earth.”
Macias and Moore devoted a week of their trip solely to the Amazon and shot hundreds of images in both film and digital formats. But that 2010 trip was only the first part of the plan for Undeforestation – the goal is to return to Peru and work in another jungle terrain, preferably in the highland rainforest. Other lodges have already offered to donate Macias and Moore’s second stay – the only question is whether or not the artists will raise sufficient funds for a second trip.
About a year after their return from Peru, Macias was approached by The Mercurial Gallery about showing her and Moore’s work in an exhibit that would open as part of Danbury’s First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve. After a visit to the gallery’s opening of “The Graduates” in September, Macias and Moore committed to the New Year’s opening and quickly began designing their exhibit. With each artist living on opposite ends of the country at times – Macias works in both New York and Los Angeles, photographing travels, perusing personal archives and designing books by commission, and Moore does set design on editorial and advertising shoots in New York –, they achieved their design primarily via email and the occasional meeting.
“It was really a matter of choosing images that aligned with how we saw our book,” explained Moore. “From the beginning we wanted to shoot the Amazon how it had yet to be seen, so we focused on images that spoke to us in that way. There’s an innate gut feeling I guess.
“We each compiled a group of images we thought would be good contenders for the show, and sent our selections to each other. From there we each edited down the others work. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to an image and want to include it for that reason, which makes editing your own work a difficult process. Swapping them helped us to narrow down what we wanted visually. With this process we were able to let the other person have input and create a common flow.”
“There was a strong interplay between image and the shows title, Selva Fanstasma,” Macias added. “Remnants, leftovers, and spirits are a big part of what our work in the Amazon conveys. Absence-existence.
“We were ecologically minded in creating this exhibition and chose easy on the Earth materials, such as archival bamboo paper – a renewable source. We also refrained from using wooden frames.”
All of the artists’ proceeds from Selva Fantasma will be siphoned directly back into the Undeforestation Project, either by funding a second trip to Peru or by kickstarting the book’s production with the images Macias and Moore shot in 2010. Both artists are looking forward to the next step of their project and remain focused on their mission of empowering indigenous communities and preserving the rainforests of the Amazon. All of the proceeds from their future book will be donated to The Rainforest Foundation, and Macias and Moore are working closely with the foundation in selecting an indigenous Amazonian community to receive the funds.
“We believe in humanity and healing,” said Macias. “This planet has the ability to make a positive shift. Our mentality and lifestyle needs to change in order to accommodate an enduring Amazon, and vital landscape. If we continue to consume natural resources at a higher rate than the Earth can regenerate, our lands will be in great peril. This is not new news.”
“We have hope that these harmful patterns will decline,” Moore maintained, “that rights will be given back to the communities who have lived within these rainforests for hundreds of years. It’s not our place to be destructive. Ultimately we created this project as a way to prove this environment exists, in hopes that it will inspire others to help sustain it. ”
“There is hope,” Macias concluded.
“Selva Fantasma: Images from the Undeforestation Project” will be on display at The Mercurial Gallery, located at 11 Library Place, from December 31 through March 2, 2012. The opening reception will take place as a part of First Night Danbury from 4pm to 8pm. Refreshments will be provided. The Mercurial Gallery will also be presenting two dance performances by the traditional Ecuadorian dance troupe Juventud Latina across the street in the Charles A. Bardo Parking Garage at 6:00pm and 6:30pm during First Night. Access to all First Night events is $7.50, but admission to the opening reception of Selva Fantasma will be free. Parking is available in the Charles A. Bardo Garage.
Regular gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11am to 5pm. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit themercurial.com or call (203)417-2215.