Regan Golden-McNerney

(American, b. 1978; resides in Saint Paul, MN)

Since 2006, Regan Golden-McNerney has been photographing a thin strip of New England forest that was once owned by her grandmother but was sold to a developer in 2014. Bordered by a gravel pit on one side and a subdivision on the other, the woodland on Minnechoag Mountain in Massachusetts is slowly disappearing. Having been immortalized in the landscape paintings of Thomas Cole and the writings of Henry David Thoreau or Robert Frost, the woods are today in a state of geographic flux that portends their eventual demise. Golden-McNerney nods to this history of romanticism while capturing the present reality of the endangered forest just forty miles west of Thoreau’s Walden Pond.   

Initially motivated to document the 31-acre woodlot precisely, capturing it in its current, uncertain state, Golden-McNerney took thousands of photographs. But pinning them up in her studio, she found that the pictures created only a seamless backdrop of forest, one without growth or decay. To transform her images, and give them their own organic, lifelike quality, Golden-McNerney cuts along their contours with an x-acto knife. She records these interventions by placing graphite paper between each photograph and a sheet of drawing paper as she cuts, creating transfer drawings of her process to pair with the altered images. Working with collage, she draws our attention to the physicality of photographs and to overlooked natural spaces, both frequently forgotten.

For her latest series Prairie Constructs (ongoing) Regan Golden-McNerney collects, draws, and photographs fragments of the urban prairie along train tracks, highways, or other peripheral spaces in her neighborhood. Again working with cut and paste technique and collage, she adds another experimental technique of using a scanner as her camera. Golden-McNerney arranges fragments of photographs directly on the scanner bed, along with painted marks, actual plants and synthetic materials she found in proximity to the plants. With this method she found a way to depict “living earth” and capture the cycle of growth and decay occurring in the rare natural spaces of urban prairie.

Golden-McNerney received a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation in 2006 to photograph and draw the woods behind her grandmother's house in Massachusetts. As a fellow in Critical Studies at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (2010), she researched how vision functions in a landscape. She has also received fellowships from the National Science Foundation (2010 ) and the Jerome Foundation (2014-2015) in support of her work.