Lines of Separation
written by Dr. Daniel Greening
In our familiar routine, small things quietly accumulate and deteriorate beautifully. This is where Lussier’s photographs take us: To the world of the familiar, with a twist.
Lussier’s exploitation of the close-up is key to creating surprise symbolism. This unusual approach confronts the viewer simultaneously with the relevancy and ubiquity of symbols—yet if the symbols are ubiquitous, are they relevant? Lussier’s photographs argue that they are, for while they expose the symbols in our daily lives, they also weave layers of structure beneath those symbols.
flood gate / florence dam is a particularly interesting example. Lussier brings us close to a partially eroded concrete dam, and immediately we are confronted with the Christian cross. Simultaneously, we can see an aerial shot looking down on a farm, with regular fields on the left and encroaching forest on the right.
Lussier exposes the pastoral nature of decay, while showing that structured religions are disappearing in favor of more organic forms.
The arms of decay cradle an intricate history. We marvel at the beauty of a weathered barn, the rich tapestry created by a pile of leaves, or the corrosion on a back road because the stories they tell have mysterious omissions.
In Lussier’s world, decay is an act of creation. Without decay there would be no history, no change, and no stories to tell. Yet, decay itself requires us to invent our own stories.
Ron Lussier’s photographs tell a tale, not only by capturing the decay of history, but by focusing in on seemingly irrelevant elements and making them the center of attention. A family seeking fortune in the early 1900s built a ramshackle cabin in the Nevada desert, insulating the walls with magazines. Lussier brings us to this place in pungence of dark, bubbling molasses (shown here), honing in on a magazine, exposing the story of a scientist concocting a dangerous potion. Can the adventurous family escape the madness? In the howling night, did they remember the macabre story insulating them from the cutting wind?
lines of separation
Observe most Lussier photographs, and you’ll find a line or an implied line that separates light from dark, good from bad, vulnerable from impervious.
In 'leaf before / florence dam', note the dry leaf protected by a large corroded iron ring. The ring represents society, presenting a rigid infrastructure for societal progress. The leaf represents the rich culture that thrives in that protected environment. Lurking outside of the ring and to the upper left is a threatening force capable of destroying that fragile richness and all that it represents.
Will force destroy culture? Will a corroded but solid protector repel destruction, and for how long?
What is the meaning of the variegated rock tabula rasa? Does it represent the ether? Or the mind created by human social interaction?
Whatever the answers you find for these questions, in Lussier’s photographs the line defines the possible.
Geometry expresses symbols, and yet with decay geometry has little stability. Lussier plays with these notions, creating a heart with rotting fruits in a bed of organic detritus, or hinting at the yin and yang in the shape of a water supply access cover embedded in concrete.
In 'leaf after / florence dam', Lussier destroys the symbols of culture despite the protection of a decaying society, arguing that the society itself must be transformed before culture can truly thrive.
There is an obvious similarity between this piece and leaf before, florence dam, yet there are significant differences. In after, the image is flatter and more fragmented. With the crushed leaf now structureless, doesn’t the object to the upper left seem less threatening?
Here Lussier hints at the Tao te Ching, where the formless leaf allows force to pass through harmlessly. The passivity of after versus the challenge of before is striking.