Memories of the Gulf
Ted Kincaid’s digital art recalls a landscape before the environmental catastrophe
By M. M. Adjarian, DALLAS VOICE.COM
The Dallas-based digital artist has for 20 years been recognizable for his uplifting, vibrantly colorful digital cloudscapes (one of his “thunderhead” clouds was shown earlier this year at the Dallas Museum of Art). But his latest exhibition, on display through July 17 at the Arthur Roger Gallery in New Orleans, resonates with a profound sense of loss and melancholy.
And no wonder. The images currently on display are based on the artist’s memories of the Gulf of Mexico before the BP oil spill.
Kincaid’s contribution, which consists of two hypnotically beautiful seascapes, is part of a 30-piece mixed media group exhibition that focuses on pre-Deepwater Horizon disaster representations of the Gulf Coast region. The exhibit celebrates but also mourns a world and way of life that are rapidly disappearing.
Kincaid, whose partner is local activist and Human Rights Campaign honoree Steve Atkinson, spoke about his art and the tragedy of the spill.
Dallas Voice: A genuine passion for nature clearly underlies your work. But why did you specifically want to take part in an exhibition about the gulf before the BP disaster? Kincaid: Arthur [Roger] organized this exhibit as a protest of the tragedy that’s going on in the Gulf and invited me to participate because of the nature of my work.
Did your environmentalism play any role in your decision to be part of this protest show? Absolutely. I think what’s going on down there is a tragedy like we’ve never seen in our lifetime and it will affect probably all us for the rest of our lives.
Do you remember when and how you become aware of the artistic possibilities the Gulf had for your work? It’s part of a trajectory that’s been happening in my work over the past 15 or so years that involves the veracity of the photograph. So those images, though printed and presented as photographs, are in fact entirely digitally constructed pixel by pixel on my computer. For all practical purposes, they are digital paintings presented as photographs.
But you have traveled to the Gulf. Oh yes, extensively. That’s why it was so important to be involved in this. The two images that are included in the exhibit are directly influenced by the area at the mouth of the Mississippi.
The name of the series from which you chose the images is called The Only Joke God Ever Played On Me. Do you find that title ironic in context of the current exhibition? Absolutely. The title referred more to the sense that images such as cloudscapes and seascapes are fleeting. They’re never static and they’re never repeated. And by the time you’re able to turn someone around and get them to look at what you’re looking at, it’s changed. And it is almost like a joke being played on you.
Only in this case, the joke isn’t divine. It’s more a terrible joke that humanity has played on itself. Yes.
Your images are haunting, disturbing … It’s much like looking at photographs of someone that you love who’s recently died. It’s the memory of what’s not there anymore.
You’ve said that your work documents things that “exist or not… and can be seen or not.” That’s a chilling statement, given that what your images depict no longer exists. Has the oil spill impacted any part of your artistic vision? My work for a number of years has tended to focus on a yearning for what we are losing. And the new work that is currently being produced in the studio has much more of an acute awareness of this than before. It doesn’t have an arrow pointing to it saying “environmental disaster;” it’s more a sense of loss and memory, a sense of something that doesn’t exist anymore. And I think that this oil spill particularly is going to impact my work for the rest of my life.