Alluvium: Transformation

Taylor Gray Harrison with the final photo in her series "Alluvium."

Taylor Gray Harrison with the final photo in her series “Alluvium.”

Taylor Gray Harrison held her se- nior show, titled “Alluvium,” on campus this past Friday from 4 until 6 p.m. According to “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,” Alluvium refers to the sediment that is deposited by flowing water. Its synonym, Alluvion describes the flow of water against a shore or bank. The original Latin Alluvius means “to wash against.” While all of these definitions differ, they allude to the transforming ability of water, and that was the focus of Harrison’s exhibit.

Harrison’s exhibit used a variety of mediums to explore this theme. Six photographs wrapped around the exhibit, while a video played on one wall. The music, while containing no natural sounds, such as the rush of the river, or the song of crickets, gave the feel that one was submerged. It was somber and nostalgic, like the soundtrack of a memory. The incorporation of sound with visual images is what put this exhibition over the top and created the proper atmosphere with which to appreciate the artwork.

The photos themselves depicted a course of transformation, and were arranged in the order of the subject’s journey. The first was both the only picture that didn’t contain any water, and the only that showed the face of the subject, a solemn woman with cropped hair and bright eyes. It was the beginning, and led the viewer to enter into the first person narrative of the subject. In the second photograph, the subject is taking her first step onto a log that acts as a bridge across the water. Her stance is strong as she begins her journey.

The third picture showed the subject crossing the log- a blurred, black and white figure in a wavering dress. This photo, while my favorite, happened as an accident. Harrison was actually filming her subject when she snapped a picture by mistake, capturing this image. Perhaps the most beautiful things are those that are most natural, which is why this photograph was one of the best.

Harrison continues more deliberately into a commentary on the power of nature in her fourth photo. In this one, the subject is comparatively smaller than the river, which is portrayed as colorful and majestic. Harrison commented that she sees so much of people trying to dominate nature, and with this photo she wanted to show nature as greater. The river is the one that is powerful, and the subject accepts that.

When Harrison showed me her fifth photo in the series, she explained that it was her favorite. She described how she had deliberately made the trees in the background seem two-dimensional, yet huge in comparison to the subject, who the viewer only sees the back of. Nature is prominent, while the subject is a detail in this photo, much like the photo before it.

The last picture shows the moment when the subject’s foot first touches the water. This is the climax, the end, and the start. Before this photograph, the subject has been merely an observer and distant explorer of the water, never encountering it head-on. It is at this point that the subject can experience alluvium, when she finally lets the water shape her.

During the exhibition, Harrison briefly explained her inspiration for “Alluvium.” She had always been fascinated with the recurring scene in movies where a character goes underwater. Why was this image of being immersed in water so recurrent in films? Did it symbolize a need for rebirth? What is our connection to water? As I listened to Harrison, a black curtain to an upper window of the exhibit fluttered rhythmically. It created a shift in light on one wall that surged and receded like the tide, as if all of us in the room were under water, allowing it to erode us as we tried to understand it.

-Bethannie Parks, Style Editor; photo cred. Winifred Yu

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