Ten photographs by Ric Kasini Kadour
A time capsule, the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh, Vermont was designated a National Historic Landmark for its Underground Railroad history. Between 1791 and 1961, the site was the home of the Robinson family, abolitionists, farmers, artists, and authors who lived a vision of America fading from present day memory. They were entrepreneurial and resilient. They cared about the land, community, and social justice. On the ninety-acre property, an 18th Century farmhouse is surrounded by various outbuildings and foundations, old structures that tell the story of how the land was used.
For the series “Finding Gold”, Kadour photographed the property around the Rokeby Museum. In the studio, he decollaged the subjects and replaced them with 18-karat gold leafing.
In doing this, Kadour sets up a game with the viewer. One could view these pictures as a critique of how we are in the world, how as we move through the world, we can be so distracted by gold–a metaphor for money, time, media, gossip–that we may fail to see simple things that are beautiful and meaningful. One could also view these pictures as an instruction, a way of being in the world in an active state of attention. Kadour encourages the viewer to redefine for themselves what gold means, to notice the small, simple, beautiful things for ourselves…to find our own.
The prints of the 20” x 30” photographs are hand-embellished with 18 carat gold leafing and issued in an edition of three.
In his 1899 In New England Fields and Woods article, “October Days”, Rowland Evans Robinson wrote about the land around the Rokeby, “How sharp the dark shadows are cut against the sunlit fields, and in their gloom how brightly shine the first fallen leaves and the starry bloom of the asters. In cloudy days and even when rain is falling the depths of the woods are not dark, for the bright foliage seems to give forth light and casts no shadows beneath the lowering sky. The scarlet maples burn, the golden….”
In Fall, I walked the land around the Rokeby, down trails that run along the old stone wall and up to the ridge where a clearing was cut to lend a view of the rolling fields that spill out to Lake Champlain. New York’s Adirondacks towered in the background. What fruit remained from summer clung to branches and vines. When I walk with my camera, I tend to look at the land differently. I seek out moments: a blade of grass, an interesting pile of rocks. I try to look for what isn’t obvious. The pursuit of subject becomes a different kind of meditation. It becomes hunting and gathering rather than an exercise in art making. So many little rewards come to me when I engage the world in this way, when I move through the land with this engaged looking.
I call this series of photographs with applied gold leaf, “Finding Gold”, because it comes from this act of searching and prospecting, but it is also a message to the viewer, to seek out these things, to move through the land with an attentive eye and marvel at the lonely burst of flowers, the single apple dangling from a stem, the lone tree reaching up across a scene. Let your eye follow the rusty string of barbed wire over rocks and in between the brush. Find the old fence post, the woodpecker holes, and gold in the bar of the locust trees.
Rowland wrote with great poetry about this land. “Fields as green as when the summer birds caroled above them, woods more gorgeous with innumerable hues and tints of ripening leaves than a blooming parterre, are spread beneath the azure sky, whose deepest color is reflected with intenser blue in lake and stream. In them against this color are set the scarlet and gold….”