by Andrew Crisp
It began in an Idaho City graveyard, said artist Erin Cunningham. That's where she took photos of flowers, left on gravestones, each decaying at the rarely visited cemetery.
"That area isn't very populated," she said. "There are flowers on the graves that have been there for who knows how many years. I wanted to give them a new life."
Cunningham labored over a series of oil on canvas pieces that are renditions of those photos. She spent a month on each of the two haunting images of flowers mired in the blackness of their backdrops. Adjacent to those flowers were portraits of women, pulled from found images, which Cunningham said she was forced to turn away from viewing to keep herself from obsessing over their details.
"I was worried I would overwork them," she said.
The Wither and Bloom series, a combination of work by Cunningham and photographer Eli Craven, debuted at the Visual Arts Collective on Friday night, June 1. Death was a common theme for both artists, with work by the two interwoven along the walls.
Most haunting were a pair titled "Still Growing" and "Mother's Pretty Hair 1911." The former showed the flowing locks of a young girl's hair, flowing disembodied in a golden, sepia-toned background. The latter showed a similar image, this time the hair in curls but hanging like some otherworldly creature, each lock resembling a clawing tendril.
"They're reaching out to one another," she said. "They're friends."
"We were both sort of looking at death and endings," said Craven. "I was looking at magazine pages of people, in instances of death or condolence, where there's grievance or comforting someone."
For Wither and Bloom, Craven culled images from magazines like Life from the 1980's, repurposing them by re-photographing them for his series Transitory Periods of Greatness, and Condolences.
"I think I'm most compelled by these right now. I've been doing more repurposing and re-imagining of photos from these magazines," he said.
Wither and Bloom runs at the Visual Arts Collective through July 30.