Meditation on "Barns and Back Roads"

Al Wachlin Jr. and Alan Vlach’s collections both feature derelict agricultural structures in northern Maine. The artists’ unique printing techniques (Wachlin’s silver gelatin prints and Vlach’s salted paper) add literal texture to the composition. While Wachlin’s vibrant color prints depict modern and abandoned potato barns, Vlach’s work incorporates evidence of life (a series of storefronts and abandoned agricultural structures) that are falling apart, beyond repair.

©Alan Vlach

©Alan Vlach

As I am here at PhoPa on a regular basis, my experience with featured works can be more or less intimate than that of a visitor. The first day of an exhibition is always a delight - full of curiosity, speculation and awe. It is exciting to experience the art before a show officially opens to the public. As administrative tasks tend to accumulate over the week, they usually take precedent and veil my surroundings while I work. I delve into emails, lists, etc., all while in a beautiful office with windows that see sky.

But this show is different. Even when my focus is on my laptop or notebook, these images tacitly lure my thoughts towards another place and time. These structures are captured mid-decay and, like ghosts, utter last breaths, heavy with remembrance.

If I were a visitor, I would probably meditate on each photo - I would wonder who the last person was to stand on the front porch, or to fork hay into the loft. I would wonder who drives by these places today and who, also, wonders these things.

The longer I sit, I think less about the people, and more about the structure. I think about the place it sits. I think about the stone foundations supporting the structure, which will remain fast in the earth long after the people are gone.

Vanessa Romanoff lives and works in Portland, Maine.