©Carson Zullinger

Hanalei Dream, 2016

"Throughout his over forty years as a photographer, Carson Zullinger has remained fascinated by the nude figure and it's potential to convey the complexity of human existence. The both stark and subtle juxtapositions he establishes within his compositions reveal the natural tensions that exist on both the microscopic and universal levels. In some photographs, the curve of a woman’s arm mirrors the gnarly roots of a banyan tree, while in others the solid nude is an obstacle around which the gentle molecules of water slide. It is in either scenario that Zullinger captures the richly symbiotic relationship between the land and the figure.           

 In past photography series, Zullinger has placed the curved figure of the model in stark juxtaposition to the rectilinear lines of man made buildings. The brilliant color and black-and-white photographs that comprise his 2016 project in Kauai mark a continuation of the photographer’s renewed interest in the challenges inherent in working within the natural environment, away from the studio or static spaces. With each shift of light or passing breeze, both artist and model must respond to the unique habitat in which they find themselves temporarily grounded. Several images require longer exposures to capture the raking light that moves across the hip at the end of the day. When working at night, Zullinger glides through the shot, revealing the scene and figure within. The mottled quality and numerous light sources create an image imbued with mystery.     

 Zullinger has visited the island of Kauai for 26 years, and these journeys have been a source of renewed energy and creative spirit. A reoccurring pose in the series is that of offering—both arms outstretched with palms turned skyward. This motion simultaneously praises the surrounding nature while absorbing that which springs forth from the land and sea. This, and other gestures, conveys a sense of appreciation and wonder, serenity and vitality. Unlike in past series, Zullinger responded directly to the natural elements—space, time, light—and his models when capturing his images. Instead of pre-visualizing each composition, he embraced a creative practice that focused on mindfulness—keeping himself actively attentive to every shift he witnessed. It is through this approach that the artist is able to mine the energy and places between the body and its surroundings—the blurred edge between scarf and thigh or crisp line between leaf and breast. Zullinger’s series, Hanalei Dream, demonstrates his ability to balance these two equally vibrant subjects—the vitality of the human form and the majesty of an ineffable place."

 Margaret Winslow, Curator of Contemporary Art, Delaware Art Museum

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