While wandering around Oaxaca, Mexico in the early ‘80s I became aware of the subtle but perceptible emotions that the faded adobe and stucco walls exuded. Thus began the “Walls/Spaces” series. Not only did these walls provide a cultural and geographical referent, but they often offered a metaphor that transcended their place and time. I immediately liked the sense of timelessness I discovered and believe it is this which allows these scenes to become more universal.
Ancient peoples and present indigenous societies have always believed that life is everywhere––even in inanimate objects. This series vivifies that timeless mindset. I find it both challenging and rewarding to draw inspiration from objects and areas taken for granted by passers-by. And if walls and outdoor spaces are often “open” in the sense of public exhibition, they are also open for interpretation.
In my new book, the series is divided into two parts: Metonymy and Milieu. The former is a figure of speech that uses the name of an object or concept in place of another relationship. In the latter part, the documentary aspects of the milieu in the photos override the metonymy.
A wall is an obstruction; or a bridge; or a window. Upon her face are etched the marks of man: quotidian efforts, birth, war, decay. The family of walls includes sister fence, brother stone and the sundry open and confined spaces. I enjoy looking at and presenting the myriad permutations of this theme. Sometimes a metaphor springs to mind, or simply a reflection of conditions– of mine, time and the anonymous Others. The walls and spaces I ultimately choose to interpret are the ones that speak to me. – John D. Elliott –