The Greening of David Ondrik's Art

Albuquerque artist David Ondrik's new photographic work is "green." Which makes me think immediately of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) who coined the term viriditas - the greening power of God. Whatever your spiritual disposition, it's hard to disagree with the mystic when she declares, “There is a power that has been since all eternity, and that force and potentiality is green!” And this spirit is something that imbues the new photography of David Ondrik. I'll call it transcendent, even apocalyptic/prophetic (by my weird standards).

Take this image, appropriately titled, "Tent City." It's a stunning look at our potential panacea while the title reminds of us of more harrowing images. David as a photographer is not unconscious of "Wasteland"--- the title of one of his portfolios. And for me, the color photography in his new series is startling after his stunning black and white works, some of which I had the chance to see in the Cautionary Tales exhibition at 516 Arts and also in the Fall Albuquerque Now at the Albuquerque Museum.When I spoke to David at Downtown Java Joes, it didn't take long for the current oil spill to come up. He also wrote about it on his farming blog. Over coffee David said, "All of us who own a car or something plastic are somewhat responsible for the Gulf Spill..." And then he went on to talk about how locally produced food cuts down on consumption, and therefore helps a little bit...

I suspect David knows too well what Hildegard of Bingen (my private obsession) said in the 11th century, "The earth which sustains humanity must not be injured, it must not be destroyed." One way to fight the demise of the planet is to love what is good, what is hopeful, and that's what David is doing. Since March, he has been photographing CSAs--Community Supported Agriculture projects, like Los Poblanos Organics, the Rio Grande Community Farm, Erda Gardens and urban gardens like the one at the Harwood Art Center.

And his photographs transcend simple documentary impulse (which in and of itself would be wholly valid). Rather with his work in the gardens, we are treated to work that succeeds on an abstract compositional level. That's something David is concerned with... "I've never done a documentary project and don't like that word but I guess that's what I'm doing." And then he talks pure aesthetics of composition, and shortly, we get into the politics of "documentary photographs," where often photographers go to, for example, impoverished areas, take pics and then return to NY or wherever and sell the shots for inordinately high prices, a monetary exchange which never makes it back to the subjects of the art.

David has a remedy for that too, or at least a way of grappling with his own integrity as a photographer. He's offering a Print of the Month, which is both a recession friendly price and simultaneously really-n-truly recession-friendly because half of the proceeds this month go to SHARE THE HARVEST which offers organic produce from the farm to Meals on Wheels, All Faiths Receiving Home and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission...

And does he actually garden? Or just photograph gardens? That was my first question. Answer: He spent the morning before our interview watering and fighting insects. (He was helping caretake his wife's garden.)

My friend Hildegard said, "All creation is simple, plain and good....Why do you ever consider things beneath your notice?" David takes notice, a different kind of vision than Hildegard was prone to. Here she's pictured in the "throes".

To see more of David Ondrik's work check out his website or grab a copy of the Land/Art Book, where his exhibition with Becky Holtzman, The Dowser Married the Alchemist, is featured. The Land Art book release party is at 516 ARTS, next Wednesday June 16th from 5:30-7:30.

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