wholey video installation
still from “wholey,” projected image on spinning cylinder, 1999


Courtney Egan
b. 1966
New Orleans, Louisiana

My art merges the tradition of botanical still-lifes with contemporary digital image manipulation, creating subtly impossible, lens-based tableaux. These realistic, yet heavily constructed composite animations give the viewer a new, mediated experience of plants, and calls attention to the distinction between natural and technological worlds. The way that humans experience nature more frequently, through the screen of the computer or television, unsettles as it inspires me.

Through my photography practice, I study plant movement and plant time. I notice what plants grow where and search out why. I recondition my senses towards an ecological time scale. This exploration reveals complex plant histories, plant economics and lore. I spent last year gaining a direct understanding of plants, focusing on the ecology and native plants of the Gulf South and working with a local native plant group. My studies have prompted me to foreground the ecology of my surroundings, instead of thinking of plants as a backdrop for a human stage.

This shift can feel at odds with digital methods of production. I use digital cameras to create timelapses, computers to create composited animations, and I display the artwork with the use of projectors. These electrically-powered, environmentally toxic tools and their implications underline a contradiction, of which the resulting artwork is a record: the same tools that allow us to more deeply sense the world, also cause ecological harm. In short, most media-based experiences of the world are enjoyable and illuminating, yet disturbing and ethically challenging at the same time. Awareness of this contradiction and looking for ways to acknowledge it occupies a large part of my practice.