Artist Statement

Chris Main portrait

My love of photography is driven by a persisting sense of gratitude for the land around us and for the people in my life. In terms of subject matter it is primarily concerned with two types of images: landscapes, usually Midwestern in origin and secondly, interiors of homes or spaces that suggest former lives well lived.

The landscape work evolves naturally out of a childhood immersed in farm life and the out-of-doors. Fondest and earliest memories go back to solitary walks in the woods near our farm, playing on the banks of a creek that flowed near our house, and walking the long rows of corn and beans contemplating the seasonal sky. Such intimate connection with the land engendered a love for its forms and images which are expressed in my rural landscapes. Color, form, sensory perceptions and permutations of light are an on-going interest. I am also interested in the relationship between the "Creation" with a capital "C" and the things that humans fashion to work or navigate the land. The creations of the human race while often grand in their own way occasionally seem inconsequential in the larger scheme of things (i.e., compared to the Creation, capital "C" in which they exist). While they may seem daunting or substantial when they first emerge from the factory or the assembly line, they eventually wear out or become outmoded and begin their slow return to the land in whatever spot we decide to leave them. As time and the elements work on these objects, I am always reminded of the transitory nature of our stay on earth and the gratitude I feel for the transforming and renewing powers of nature. I have encountered old cars, rusted farm implements and other discarded junk in the most lovely of environments, rusting away… This juxtaposition of human junk beside the simple beauty of the natural world underscores the temporal nature of all things people strive to produce. It also underscores the divine aspect of the natural world that will hopefully renew and rebirth itself in the course of time.

My work also concerns itself with human intervention in the natural world that is performed in a harmonious manner with the rhythms of the seasons. Thus, lush ripening orchards or beautifully worn footpaths through the woods may attract my attention by reminding me that the earth is a gift that we are expected to use and enjoy and care for. Indeed certain things, such as the worn footpath, testify to our love and gratitude for the natural world and our desire to experience it.

The house interiors or "domestic still lifes" as I sometimes call them have a lot to do with the hypothesis, "if walls could talk, what would they say?" I have always been greatly intrigued by empty farmhouses and the human or spiritual activities that may have transpired there prior to my arrival. This has nothing to do with ghosts but has a great deal to due with the almost palpable sense of presence that remains in a space long after the inhabitants have departed. It enables me to identify with members of my family who were all raised in farm houses in the l930’s. While these people may no longer be with me, it is possible to feel closer to them in such a space because of the similarities it bears to their own childhood home. In certain places this sense of past activity is very strong and may be amplified by remnants and reminders such as writing on the walls or left-behind possessions. When the remnants convey the sense that what transpired there was good and blessed and worthy and loving, then the power of the camera to document a moment in time is irresistible. The camera enables me to become part of this joyful march of time in this good space and that appeals to me. It’s the photographic equivalent to "I was here" graffiti that affirms our existence. At the same time it documents something very desirable: proof of a life well lived.

Biography

I was raised in northwest Indiana on a farm of about l000 acres. Years spent in the out-of-doors created in me a love for the Midwestern landscape and its many forms, colors, themes and permutations but I never allowed myself to pursue artistic training, as I was raised to think of it as somewhat unnecessary. I received English and Counseling degrees from Purdue University and Loyola University of Chicago respectively, but found my true calling when I began taking photography classes at Columbia College in Chicago at the age of 30. At the time I was employed as a human resource manager in a large corporation. I was soon hooked on image making but had to put my interest on hold for 20 years when my husband and I decided to start a family. During those years I contented myself with black and white vacation photos and portraits of my children. In my late 40’s I began taking graduate coursework at the University of Illinois in photography and made a commitment to pursue image making permanently. With the equivalent of a masters degree in fine art, I try to maintain an edge by taking summer workshops and seminars that draw on my interest in landscape, portrait, still life and various kinds of fine art photography. My husband, David, is my greatest fan and partner. His support of my work enables me to pursue this calling with a peaceful mind and free spirit. My gratitude extends in many directions to family and friends as well as to Bea Nettles, a professor of art and design at the University of Illinois, whose encouragement helped set me on this course.