by Leah Oates

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In this segment of her series, Transitory Space Leah Oates uncovers ethereal landscapes that are obscured—in plain view—around Brooklyn, NYC. In Oates’ images, captured on 35mm film and manipulated in-camera using a variety of techniques, the trees and lakes of New York City parks are transformed into otherworldly painterly silhouettes with saturated colors. Oates, who grew up in rural Maine, states, “These photographs are about the benefit and beauty of nature amidst the constant movement of a city. It’s easy to forget, in any city, that humans are part of nature.” Oates has photographed in Prospect Park, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Van Cortlandt Park, and Pelham Bay Park in NYC. She loves that these outer-borough spaces are wild, similar to natural spaces in Maine that Oates explored as a child.

ARTIST STATEMENT. The Transitory Space series deals with urban and natural locations that are transforming due to the passage of time, altered natural conditions, and a continual human imprint. In everyone and everything there are daily changes. Transitory Space articulates this fluctuation in the photographic image and captures this movement through time and space.

Humans leave traces and artifacts of our consciousness everywhere in our environment. Contradictory realities can be found coexisting wherever we look. They’re in what we choose to think, what we choose to believe, how we choose to act, and they can be found in what we choose to observe.

When I look back on a moment, it’s full of impressions. Multiple exposures capture this. When photographing I make multiple exposures on specific frames in the camera, allowing me to display a more complete correlation of experiences that a single exposure just misses.  

Every moment captured on film is over as soon as the shutter clicks, recording the ephemeral. Yet, in reality, there is always a visual cacophony of experiences. We are always living in many realities at once. Multiple exposures express the way we experience the world more accurately. 

Transitory spaces have a messy human energy that is perpetually in the present yet continually altering. They are endlessly interesting, living places where there is a great deal of beauty and fragility. They are temporary monuments to the ephemeral nature of existence.

Leah Oates has BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is a Fulbright fellow at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. Oates has had solo shows at Black Cat Artspace, Susan Eley Fine Art, Artemisia Gallery, A.I.R. Gallery, Women Made Gallery, the Central Park Arsenal Gallery, Real Art Ways, the Brooklyn Public Library, and at the MTA Arts and Design’s Lightbox Project. Oates was in group shows in Toronto at the Gladstone House, John B. Aird Gallery, Propeller Art Gallery, Gallery 1313, Gerrard Art Space, Arta Gallery, and the Papermill Theatre and Gallery. She has been in numerous group shows in NYC at Wave Hill, Edward Hopper House, Chashama, WAH Center, Metaphor Contemporary Art Gallery, Denise Bibro Fine Art, Nurture Art, and the Pen + Brush Gallery. 

SLAG GLASS CITY • Volume 10 • May 2024
Header image by Leah Oates.