Lishan AZ :: Staring at the Dark

Black and white photograph of woman laying in in bed, partially hidden behind a blanket in the foreground.

Antenna Gallery
Exhibition Dates: Saturday July 9 – Sunday Aug 7, 2022
Opening Reception:     Saturday July 9, 6pm-10pm
Gallery Hours: Wed-Sun 12pm-5pm

 

“They seemed to be staring at the dark, but their eyes were watching God.”

  –Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

In summer 2021, after a breakup in Los Angeles, I returned to my childhood home in Maryland to photograph lightning bugs. Lightning bugs are a dying species. As their homes get destroyed by construction and light pollution, their population has been on the decline for over a decade. But in the woods where I grew up, away from the manicured lawns and artificial lights of the city, they continue their mating dance. 

The first part of the exhibit is an immersion into a dark forest lit by lightning bugs. Through long-exposure photography, I seek to compress time, to capture a world of motion in one ethereal still image. Each photo requires hours in the dead of night to complete, requiring intimacy with darkness and with the natural world. I sat in the dark for hours in order to capture their light.

The second part of the exhibit includes intimate photographs of a former lover and I over the course of our breakup. Each photo tells a different story about intimacy and the end of relationships. I sat in the darkness of our emotions, taking photos during moments of rupture in the home we attempted to make together. As I work with an old medium format camera, the slow process of capturing the photo on film, then developing the film at home, brings reverence to these moments of uncertainty.

Staring at the Dark explores intimacy, shadow, and home as a contested space. Inside, through the interior lives of my former lover and me, light reveals shadow. Outside, through the mating ritual of lightning bugs, darkness reveals a dance of light.


Lishan AZ is a multi-disciplinary artist working in immersive installation, community-based projects, and photography. She explores themes of home, intimacy, and interiority. She studies Black women who have disrupted history by daring to add their voices to the historical record. Lishan holds her M.F.A. in interactive media and games from the University of Southern California and is currently an assistant professor of cinema & digital media at the University of California, Davis.

Selected as the 2022 Antenna (Inter)National Open Call recipient by the Antenna Collective