Work on Monday: “Bull in the Heather” by Tom Dash

This week, Work on Monday examines an almost meditative photograph by multimedia artist Tom Dash, who exploded onto the local and national art scene this summer with his show at Mark Borghi Fine Art in Bridgehampton and a strong presence, with Borghi, at ArtHamptons.

Work on Monday is a weekly look at one piece of art related to the East End, usually by a Hamptons or North Fork artist, living or dead, created in any kind of media. Join the conversation by posting your thoughts in the comments below and email suggestions for a future Work on Monday here.

Bull in the Heather
Tom Dash (b.1975)
Digital C print, Edition of 3
48 x 68 inches, 2013

A survey of Dash’s work proves him to be a master of appropriation, with imagery from his artistic predecessors, musical favorites and various other sources that fit his aesthetic milieu. The work is often easy to digest and enjoy, especially for those of us who are close in age and share the punk-rock, skater experience he references. But Dash’s photographs stand out as his most challenging and contemplative images among the more-nostalgic visual candy.

Perhaps most notable among these photographs, “Bull in the Heather” is a stark image of a long-abandoned, stagnant swimming pool surrounded by tall grass, overgrown walkways and an empty lifeguard stand. As is often the case with truly contemplative and thought-provoking works, one could almost pass by “Bull in the Heather” without giving it a second thought, but it is this no-nonsense presentation, this straightforward approach to shooting a scene, that makes the piece even more compelling. With no extreme angles, no bright colors and no grand, attention-grabbing subject, it is nearly the antithesis of slick and palatable.

“Bull in the Heather” asks us to spend time looking, to consider its importance, and to explore its subtle emotional  narrative. What does a swimming pool mean, after all? It’s a thing of resorts, recreation and summer—this is a place once full of people frolicking and playing and splashing in blue water. And it all happened, very likely, beneath an inviting blue sky, much like the one captured above. But now there is no lifeguard, there are no people, and nature has begun its slow process of devouring. Eventually the pool will be gone completely, erased by time and all that grows around and over it.

Dash has created an emotionally resonant image that speaks of our brief moments on earth as individuals, as a civilization and as a species. Is this a hopeful message about the resilience of our planet, or a foreboding and bleak reminder of our insignificance in the greater passage time?

Tom Dash’s work can be found at Mark Borghi Fine Art, borghi.org

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