These pictures are some of the first in a project that confronts the life/death cycle as I find it in the countryside.
I was born in London, and have always lived in urban areas. In recent years I have been spending more time traveling in rural locations, especially western Wisconsin. This travel through my adopted country has changed me in subtle ways. Through the years, I have lost many people who were close to me, and have found that exceptionally difficult at times. Leaving the city behind for a weekend in the country seemed like a peaceful getaway, but anyone who grew up in a rural area will know I was wrong about this because, in the countryside, death and life share the same nest. Little tragedies are everywhere and they can be heartbreaking, but after a while I started to see a sturdy little dignity in the skulls and snake skins.
I went from making photographs of the land, which I have done for years, to doing studies of the interesting objects I find. I just set them on white paper and photograph them close to where I find them. These aren’t meant to be memorials, or references to the memento mori or vanitas traditions, and they also don’t feel morbid to me. I’m simply trying to separate human emotion from the life-cycle, and spend some time with the formal beauty of these artifacts. I have combined evidence of life (egg shells, nests) with death (baby bird, cat skull) and aim to make this juxtaposition as natural as it really is. Transitory objects like a snake skin and lost horse shoe are included to bridge the life/death gap.
I’m hoping that the tiny jawbone of a car-hit fawn can be viewed with the same fascination as a seasonally shed antler. These are quiet glimpses into the cycle of life.
Keith Taylor is a recipient of an Artist Initiative grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature; and by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.