One's clothing is literally a living entity—a tunic of forsythia flowers, and pants of ivy or tree bark—that seems to have possessed and become part of him, transformed into a kind of living skin. The other character seems to be going in the opposite evolutionary direction: a plant assuming human form.
From the beginnings of industrialization with the mechanization of labor, where the clock rather than our natural circadian rhythms ruled day and night, we have set nature at a distance. Our food magically appears in the supermarket, shining brightly in neat stacks in vegetable bins, or divided into pieces and wrapped in clear plastic. How many people could reconstruct a chicken from the various bits set so nicely in Styrofoam containers? Today, more city children have seen an elephant than a cow. If empathy is the key to understanding the other, then perhaps we would all benefit from spending some time as plants.
Stephen Perloff , Editor, The Photo Review Excerpt from his essay in FOTOFEST2006 catalogue.
KEITH SHARP Nature Boy
In the Nature Boy series, I have combined my interests in nature and self-portraiture portraying myself transforming into a tree creature. In doing so, I am able to step into my romanticized view of the world. I photographed familiar situations but with a twist in an attempt to make the viewer do a double take. The inherent awkwardness of this character trying to blend in portrays my experiences as an outsider trying to fit in to my environment. I began this series by creating sketches of the various ways that I could imagine myself transforming into this creature. The props that I created for these performances were created from natural and artificial materials — bark, leaves, flowers, old clothes, fabric, plastics, paint, and glue. While some of the costumes have remained intact, others have fallen apart. A photograph is the end result of these performances.
Keith Sharp studied photography at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, where he received a B.F.A. in photography and a M.A.T. in art education. He has exhibited in solo shows at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia; Silver Eye Center for Photography, Pittsburgh; Arts Club of Washington, Washington, D.C.; Muse Gallery, Philadelphia, and Zone One Gallery, Philadelphia. His work has been included in various group shows across the country, including exhibitions at Perkins Center for the Arts, Moorestown, New Jersey; Westmoreland Art Nationals, Latrobe, Pennsylvania; James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia; Maryland Federation of Art, Baltimore; Toledo Friends of Photography; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, Wilmington. Public and corporate collections holding Sharp’s work include the Allentown Art Museum, Pennsylvania; Free Library of Philadelphia; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg; West Collection at SEI Investments Company, and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. In 2003–2005, he was a fellow with the Center for the Emerging Visual Artists (CEFVA), formerly Creative Artists Network (CAN).