The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. -- Marcel Proust
"They look like everything except what they are." -- Stacey Moore
Stacey Moore is a voracious autodidact with a near-pathological appetite for trying new things. If she had a motto, she jokingly but knowingly admits it would be, "I wonder what would happen if I..." Previous subjects mastered in this manner include computer coding, jewelry making, graphic design, creative branding, nightclub deejaying, and entrepreneurial capitalism. So perhaps her relatively recent embrace of photography, and the rapidity with which she thereafter refined her vision and honed her technique, should come as no surprise. What is surprising is the degree to which after just a few years Moore has managed to contribute something fresh and new to the photography discourse -- no small feat in our world of profligate image-overload.
Moore is adamant that she does not consider herself a photographer. This is partly due to her personal resistance to the finality of labels, and partly because though she uses a camera her goals are not the conventional goals of the landscape photography she appears to practice. She often says she treats color and light as found objects, conceptualizing her camera as a brush and the world as her palette rather than her subject. Since the inception of her ongoing series COAST, and the subseries SURF, FLY, SCAPE, and SEA which comprise it, she moves inexorably toward gestural abstraction, as her photographic engagement with the outside world has slowly given way to an emotion- and idea-based language of reductive fundamentals (light, movement, color) more familiar to the world of non-objective painters, particularly Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler, but also Ellsworth Kelly and Barnett Newman.
COAST emerged from a desire to explore her world on a deeper level. Challenging herself to try something new, she "wondered what would happen if..." she started taking pictures on already-daily bike rides around her Venice Beach home. The first year she shot every day just to get her bearings. She places a great deal of importance on the act of being out in the world, and the idea of collecting and sorting elements in the "spectacle of life." One perceives as well the influence of the Bauhaus collective, especially the luminous reductivism of Josef Albers and the organic, emotional, nuances of Paul Klee. Using digital allows her to shoot in near-continuous mode, capturing exponentially more shifts and subtleties of light and motion than the naked eye could do. Eventually it was those details that became her true subjects, as she found herself increasingly making choices leading away from rendering and toward abstraction. She discovered a new kind of depiction -- evocative rather than narrative, experiential rather than informational. All the subseries of COAST are ongoing, and what continues to link them as they evolve is her pursuit of "a range of light and color." As she says, "Let the light do the work, it will lead you. Movement and stillness. Light and darkness. Detail and diffusion. I find my expression attuned to the interplay of opposites."
Yearning to infuse her images with a greater sense of this interplay, in SURF, she "wondered what would happen if..." she wielded the camera more like a brush -- moving it during exposures in long sweeping gestures or staccato punctuations; using a zoom; turning into the raking light instead of avoiding its flares like "you're supposed to." It's worth noting that she is also a painter, and that in the world of canvas and pigment, she uses similar techniques to achieve heavy, expressionistic textures. In this way, Moore began using the light itself to create motion inside the image, grounding the camera in the physical world, like film once did. "Harsh midday light is the sharpest. Conventional technique says to avoid it, but it makes the best scrapes and scratches!" The effect she achieves is not unlike painting with a palette knife on canvas, or printing from a damaged negative -- a subtly vertiginous appearance of deep scoring that atomizes the light source and seems to reveal what lies behind. In FLY, she coveted the fractal movements of birds, how their flight in air resembles that of surfers cleaving water. She freezes and blurs beating wings in the act of flying; she captures the crisp suaveness of those that are at rest. With such a lyrical subject, the narrative is ripe for allegorical, poetic meaning -- and that's fine with the artist. But it's important to remember the persistence of that other narrative, the one about the artist being out in the world, present for such encounters.
In SCAPE she honors the naturally occurring surrealism of ocean meeting sky. This sometimes entails coastal architecture, piers, or skate parks, but mostly is pure horizon line -- and color, color, color. These lines divide and juxtapose luminous, counterintuitive chromatic sets a la Rothko. But crucially, they exist in the observable world. The surreal grandeur and dreamlike intimacy of Southern California's legendary sunsets is not only described in these works, but evoked anew through Moore's subtle, intuitive processing. In SEA, the focus is on the water itself. Close-cropped, minus the orientation of the horizon, these read more like color and texture studies, flirting with non-objectivity and expressionism in terms of what she prioritizes in the image, yet her subject remains legible.
Then she wondered "what would happen if..." she layered and stacked and harmonized these individual images into pairs and formations. In the resulting SEA GRIDS she accomplishes the closest thing to pure abstraction in COAST. These sequences are assembled according to various factors both formal and circumstantial. The adjacency of disparate but related elements affects and is affected by the narrative quality of how the grids are made -- by deconstructing those qualities chronicled elsewhere in COAST, and reassembling the component parts in a chain of transformation that takes account of not only color and light but also time, and space both pictorial and architectural. One effect of these arrangements is an operation of scale, a move toward achieving the color-field pantheon's sublime, transformative experience of being enveloped and immersed. In a sense, the SEA GRIDS belong not only to influences of art history, but also to the future promise of her own work -- evolving out of the SEA from which they emerged. Like nature itself, things change every day, sometimes minute to minute. Birds fly, the sun rises and sets and the waves roll in -- always and never the same.
NOTE: Moore hosts a special in-studio viewing schedule (hint: give the gift of art this holiday season) with hours by appointment December 8-22, and a reception on Sunday, December 14, 12-3:30pm, before the famous Venice Canals Boat Parade. Call 310.692.4441 for details.