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Crossing Sublime (After After Nature)

The text and images of Crossing Sublime (After After Nature) began in tandem with my research for a collaborative exhibition about migratory birds. In addition to readings on bird migration, global and local conservation, climate change, extinction and eco-politics, fieldwork for that project reignited a love of wandering the wild. And I read too, works by those who wax poetic on these and other related matters including their own solitary walks in remote terrain.
          W.G. Sebald’s three-part narrative poem After Nature suggested the structure for this project. Its first two sections reconsider the lives and works of painter Matthias Grunewald and biologist / explorer Georg Wilhelm Steller. The third section is composed in a variant of Sebald’s own voice. This triptych inspired me to write and perform artworks through three alternate personae. 

          My comprehension of Sebald’s text as a collective meditation on the inter-relatedness of materiality and transcendence substantiated analogous themes in my own work. A subsequent review of the sublime as a subject in visual art conveyed a mostly male perspective. Yet, transcendental experience is not conditioned by difference. In response, I resolved to re-examine my experiences as a maker and as a wanderer with a parallel exploration of the sublime. Instead of nature’s grandeur, I would consider its mundanity; instead of expansion, I would explore contraction. 

          My first two subjects are artist Anne Ryan and cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. An unmoored aspect of myself is third. Ryan, as one who maintained an almost miniaturist approach to working with commonplace materials exemplifies a profound relationship to the sublime everyday. Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to orbit the earth, was a bona fide participant in a significantly heroic and expansive form of exploration. Yet, her experiences and observations tended towards the circumspect and in contrast to those of her male counterparts, vastly underestimated.


An exhibition of the project took

place at the Robert Else Gallery, Sacramento State University in 2017.


A PDF of the book

Crossing Sublime (After After Nature)

which includes the text and

reproductions of the artwork

may be seen HERE.

This audio loop accompanied

the assemblage:

After Valentina Tereshkova 2

I am Chaika - Valerie Constantino
00:00 / 00:00
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