Mountains And/Or In-Between Seas

Mountains And/Or In-Between Seas

A few years ago I moved home after grad school and raided my dad’s house, digging from his closet, a crappy Samsung 35mm camera. The first roll of color film I developed had some auto-timed ‘selfies’ from his musky fish trophies in Wisconsin.  The same camera used to slosh around in his boat next to a pack of Twizzlers, tucked away for the right moment, catch before the release or the sun setting on the horizon.

I adopted this forgotten relic for a visit to Iceland, a return voyage to visit the idyllic landscape in the North Atlantic, where the continual daylight somehow has a sepulchral silence.  I remembered eating breakfast in a warm Icelandic kitchen in conversation with friends, who posed the question, ­

“If you could choose only one, which would it be, mountains or sea?”

Over the years I’ve changed my answer, agonizing over this hypothetical.  The coastal life I knew from growing up along Lake Michigan would conflict with the mature mysticism I discovered in mountain peaks. I return often to this conundrum, seeing it the impetus for investigation of identity in place and the paradox that is our planet.

The camera became an abused collaborator on traveling adventures, shoved to the bottom of suitcases and dropped from bike handlebars.  It has catalogued my opportune moments convening with radical nature: at melting glacial fields, atop crystalline mountains, on ferries and everywhere in-between mountains and seas.  I am looking for fabled place, somewhere distant and forlorn that is both and neither, known and forgotten, where the horizon is an otherworldly impression.

I read somewhere, second to understanding ourselves, is to understand our Earth.  The ground continues to shift beneath our moving feet, changing at the rate of a fingernail or a landslide, mimicking our ability to radically change haircuts or careers. If we don’t take the opportunity to convene with nature as physically and fully as possible, we fail to identify, or more importantly, empathize with Earth.

Through this analog lens, I framed to record these impressions of time passing in the landscape and my movement.  A whole universe frozen in time is reanimated through inherited rose-colored glasses, protected by nostalgia, far away from our planet’s melting, flooding, burning and drowning future. 

As Country star John Conlee put it best,
“These rose colored glasses
That I’m looking through
Show only the beauty
‘Cause they hide all the truth”

Written by Nicole Shaver; Photography by Nicole Shaver.

Nicole Shaver grew up along Lake Michigan in Wisconsin where she skipped rocks and watched fishermen gut salmon as a child. Largely inspired by geology and a contemporary sublime, her work catalogs an imagined space between geographical sites and fantasy. 

She received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her MFA in from the University of Iowa. She has attended artist residencies in Colorado, Iceland, North Carolina, Ohio, Vancouver and Wisconsin while exhibiting widely through the United States and Scandinavia. Her work has been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and published in New American Paintings and Studio Visit Magazine. She currently has a studio in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

Follow @nicolejshaver