As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to escape the farm where I grew up. I traveled with friends to cities and towns with no plan and very little money, making our way as we went; sleeping in cars, on a stranger’s floor or pooling money for a hotel room. Those experiences stayed with me, and my desire to understand them drew me back to that life of escape, or some precise analogue thereof, years later to make photographs.
The photographs in Leviathan follow my experience of dislocation at a remote community in Ohio. Inadvertently, I had found myself on another farm; a warped doppelganger of the one I had known growing up. Things seemed slightly altered of their identity and with this as my guide, I stepped away from a presumed knowledge of where I was. I followed aquatic themes emerging in my photographs, recalling stories of escape and confrontation with the unknowable on the sea; Ishmael’s flight from New York City aboard the Pequod or Jonah’s attempt to escape God’s will by boarding a ship bound for the far off land of Tarshish. Sometimes places of disparate cultures and geographies are linked. This connection lies beneath the surface, and its meaning is ambiguous. Even the Appalachian mountains looming around me got their name from the Native American word “apala,” or “great ocean.” The sequence of photographs in Leviathan suggests a subjective narrative where these worlds have converged.
Morgan Ashcom is an artist and educator living in New York City. He was born in 1982 and raised on a farm in rural Virginia. In 2013 he received his MFA from the International Limited Residency MFA Photography program at the Hartford Art School. This past summer, the Phoenix Museum of Art included a book moquette for his project Leviathan in an exhibition on contemporary artist books. The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University later shortlisted Leviathan for the Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. In 2014 he began an exciting collaboration with Peperoni Books in Berlin to publish Leviathan in 2015. He has exhibited his work at the Center for Contemporary Arts, in Santa Fe, the Houston Center for Photography, 25CPW in New York City, Joseloff Gallery in Hartford, CT, Kominek Gallery in Berlin, and the Arlington Arts Center in Virginia. His work has won numerous awards including 1st place in Center’s Choice Awards in 2014. He has been a guest lecturer at the University of Hartford, Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, and the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies. Morgan currently teaches the History of Color Photography and Advanced Photographic Methods at Western Connecticut State University.