Martina Shenal Martina Shenal

Artist Statement

Volcanoes I have known


Fire mountain
Taller than I am
Hot grass


Vast green and
Soon to be pierced
Targets placed

- Takaha Shugyo (1930- )

I’m drawn to the multiple interpretations implicit in each haiku. As a juxtaposition of images or ideas, this form of Japanese poetry echoes the
inherent dualities at play when deciphering photographic images–what is literally inside the frame vs. a fleeting feeling that its meaning resides elsewhere.

These inscriptions in stone appear at the summit of a 580 meter dormant volcano located in the Izu Peninsula on the southeastern coast of Japan. As a shrine and popular pilgrimage site, Mt. Omuro harbors a lush, green archery field inside the volcano. On the second Sunday each February, the interior and exterior grass is set ablaze, an occurrence that has taken place every year for the past eight hundred years.

Borrowed Views (2009-2012)

The title Borrowed Views, a translation from Japanese shakkei, references the stylized perspective strategies found in traditional eastern landscape painting and seventeenth century Japanese garden design. The work explores aspects of human intervention within the landscape– intersections of public and private, nature and the built environment, literal and metaphorical boundaries that protect as well as isolate, on a series of remote islands in Japan.
Acknowledging that place suggests an experiential encounter and space points to the unknown, these images invoke the dichotomy of an intimate encounter set against the distanced backdrop of foreign observation. Operating within a perpetually passing moment, they remain ambiguous fragments of the material world.

Secondary Nature (2012-present)

I chose the title to draw parallels between the concept of differentiated natures, with references to first nature, following natural laws of instinct, and second nature, referring to learned cultural clues. In some sense, I am searching for an idealized landscape on these islands that is reflective of the garden: highly manipulated, tightly controlled and cultivated; offering a mediated interaction with the natural world while contextualizing it within a broader topographical and conceptual framework. Referring simultaneously to the manipulation of nature while acknowledging the inherent limitations of a monocular view through the lens, these images are rendered with the knowledge that they transform and construct their own version of reality.