Meggan Gould’s slow photography emphasizes the ephemeral nature of the moment in Happy Time, Doomsday Time.
Meggan Gould: Happy Time, Doomsday Time
November 4–25, 2022
Sanitary Tortilla Factory, Albuquerque
Meggan Gould’s photography takes time—as subject, concept, medium, and process, simultaneously. And her exhibition Happy Time, Doomsday Time at Sanitary Tortilla Factory in Albuquerque—which opened on the crux of daylight savings’ end, with many of us excruciatingly aware of the clock—takes time as image, picturing an acute contemporary moment.
The 139 works on view are anthotypes, or photographs made from plant extracts, a body of work that the artist has been developing for the past two years. Consistent in size and composition, the monochromatic prints, printed in an array of soft colors, comprise an installation of multiple grids, including two large color-concentrated sections, one blue, one green.
Gould’s work is also quite focused on the tropes of photography, or, as she writes in her exhibition statement, “the ways our vision is quietly mediated.” At first glance, it’s easy to assume that each piece in Happy Time, Doomsday Time features the same representation of a clock with hands stuck at 10:10: “Happy Time.” But Gould always, always, prompts a closer look, asking us to linger with an image or idea just a little while longer. Slowly, we see that each print is unique, the second hand ticking its way along a full minute’s path. Dispersed throughout the installation, every so often, is a clock with its hands positioned mere seconds before midnight: Doomsday.
By repeating nearly identical images, Gould represents the ubiquity of time in our supposed individual lives and illustrates capitalism’s false promises (you’ll never look at analog watch advertisements the same way again, those smiling hands slyly framing the brand name). She also points to domestic life, art history, and the climate crisis. That’s a hell of a lot to fit into one rectangle, but here she succeeds, time after time.
And those colors. What can we expect from images slowly developed by the sun with ink made from vegetables and flowers? The blues, greens, yellows, and pinks of cabbage, kale, marigold, taro, and more soak into the watercolor paper, resisting hard edges and sharp resolution. Gould created these experimental prints, in part, to contrast photography’s toxic nature, its use of resources, and ever-increasing commodification. The work’s range of so-called successful results renders the value of making and the tenuousness of our futures inextricable.
Happy Time, Doomsday Time is so straightforward, the proposals for action so transparently present, it’s almost unnerving. Each of these prints will eventually fade as we look to the future, whatever its conditions. Tick tock.