The American Dream Denied

AnnieLaurie Erickson

AnnieLaurie Erickson is a lens-based artist and photographer who has been based in New Orleans since 2012. Her work probes the limits of natural and technologically-assisted human perception. Ericksons work has been exhibited widely in the US and abroad, including venues such as Higher Pictures and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts in New York; Goethe-Institut, Washington, DC; Kunsthaus Centre d'art Pasquart, Biel, Switzerland; Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle; and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans. Her work has been recognized by a Clarence John Laughlin Award, an ATLAS grant (Award to Louisiana Artists and Scholars), and an artist residency at Yaddo, among many other distinctions. Head of photography in the Newcomb Art Department of Tulane University, Erickson is also an active member of the Antenna artist collective and gallery located on St. Claude Ave. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design.

When I first moved to Louisiana, I was struck by the appearance of oil refineries at night, which looked like strange forbidden cities. Soon after I started to photograph them, I was stopped by the police and told that refineries are indeed “unphotographable” according to post-9/11 regulations. This experience heightened my interest in them as photographic subjects. Keeping a low profile, I began to systematically document refineries up and down the Mississippi River, using a handmade afterimaging camera to render them as ghostly, mysterious constellations of light marked by unearthly color shifts. For me, these images evoke both a presence and an absence. They are points along a continuum between strict representation and subjective abstraction, or between our immediate visual reality and the decaying, remembered imagery that subconsciously shapes our perception. Afterimages have a transgressive quality that appeals to me. They appear when we use our eyes in ways that we shouldn’t – by staring at something too bright or holding our gaze for too long. The photographic series “Slow Light” addresses the phenomenon of afterimages – the latent imagery that remains on our retinas after we look at the sun or at bright objects in the dark. In this process, I am able to simulate an essentially unphotographable visual experience by using handmade artificial retinas that register the remains of light.

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