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Prospect 16: Declan O’Dowd

December 15, 2012 - March 3, 2013


Curator:
Year 2012 Theme Emerging Artists, Nova Scotian Artists, Photography

This is the sixteenth of the Prospect exhibitions, which introduce Nova Scotian artists in the early stages of their careers.

Declan O’Dowd grew up in Lunenburg County, on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. Like many of the county’s rural residents, he took part in the up-keep of his family’s home garden, which he helped to deer-proof with wire mesh supported on posts. Deer are among the foremost garden pests in the area, and gardens equipped against the ungulate menace are known colloquially as “deer gardens.” Two years ago, O’Dowd decided to document these outposts of cultivation in a series of colour photographs entitled Deer Gardens.

In the process of obtaining permission to photograph, O’Dowd made the acquaintance of most landowners whose property he documented. The gardeners do not appear in the photographs because they were most likely at rest at the moment of shooting; O’Dowd deliberately photographed in the early morning or late evening, when the light would be softer, the shadows less harsh and the ambience more dream-like. Viewers may guess at the personalities of the gardeners by studying the idiosyncratic ornaments, barriers and scare repellents installed on each plot of land.

Clad in rubber boots, rain gear and a hat, O’Dowd would often set up a shot by climbing a ladder to operate his camera from a tall tripod. The elevated positioning of the camera ensured that a maximum of information would be recorded. The gardens are generally centred in the frame and surrounded by the lush, wild landscape—a framing that dramatizes the encroachment of the forces of nature. Several of the gardens documented in the photographs no longer exist; the landowners have given up the struggle against ravenous wildlife.

Declan O’Dowd was educated as a photographer at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (BFA, 2000) and lives in Dartmouth. His romantic landscape views were shot with a Mamiya medium format camera. The developed film was digitally scanned and printed on an inkjet printer.

OPENING RECEPTION: Opens jointly with Activist Ink on Saturday, January 19 at 3:00pm. The artist will be present.