Arizona-based artist Bryan David Griffith explores environmental and climate issues through creative intersections of photography and found natural elements.
River rocks. Foraged natural dyes and pigments. Flood debris. Wood gathered from wildfire or construction sites. They’re all prevalent in recent works by Bryan David Griffith, an artist based in Flagstaff, Arizona, where close encounters with wildfires and floods have shaped his evolving art practice.
“I make my work out of the local landscape,” explains Griffith.
In his 2021 exhibition Watershed at Coconino Center for the Arts, Griffith addressed climate change, public policy, population growth, and other factors impacting local water-related processes by layering and blending assorted media such as cyanotype photography, experimental painting, and sculpture.
Hiking local terrain, where he experiences the nuances of various micro-ecosystems, is central to Griffith’s art practice. “I’m constantly responding to the landscape; I can’t just go into my studio and make what I want.”
One season, Griffith noticed that mushrooms weren’t growing where they’d previously been plentiful. Another season, he observed a lush expanse of wildflowers. “All my Watershed works are motivated by things I’ve seen.”
For Griffith, these encounters are critical to making work that’s authentic—and they’re meaningful reflections of his way of being in the world. “There’s been an evolution to embracing wildness and the unpredictability of natural materials.”
Currently, his process begins with underpainting foraged plant forms using cyanotype, then adding a second layer of botanical imagery through interplays of natural dyes with sunlight. Next, he builds additional layers with natural pigments and acrylic paint, aiming for subtleties “that reveal themselves gradually with extended viewing.”
Moving forward, Griffith plans to continue his explorations of fire and water while expanding his geographical range, setting pressing issues such as water scarcity in a broader philosophical context.
“I try to create meditative works that beckon you to pause and reflect on the greater mysteries that underlie the natural world and our relationship to it.”
Griffith’s solo exhibition Rethinking Fire is currently on view at the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, in Portland, Oregon, until July 31, 2023.