Lily Brooks

Lily Brooks was born in Massachusetts in 1981. She received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art + Design in 2006 and an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014, where she was named a Powers Research Fellow. Lily’s work has been published in Austin Chronicle, Cabinet magazine, and online for Ain’t-Bad Magazine and Crusade for Art. Selected exhibitions include Forces at Work, a three-person show at the Visual Arts Center in Austin, Texas and a solo exhibition at Aviary Gallery, in Boston, MA. Lily was selected for the 2016 Magenta Foundation festival, catalogue and exhibition at Division Gallery in Toronto, ON. Lily is full-time Instructor of Photography at Southeastern Louisiana University and lives and works in Baton Rouge.

We Have to Count the Clouds

An inscription at the National Weather Service station in New Braunfels, TX reads, “He who shall predict the weather, if he does it conscientiously and with inclination, will have no quiet life any more.”

In my ongoing series, We Have to Count the Clouds, photographs function as evidence of the ways in which we comprehend, negotiate, and mediate our relationship to weather and climate. The work presents visual remnants of often-invisible forces.

I moved to Texas in August of 2011, during the worst drought since the 1950‘s. Conversations about the heat were ubiquitous and as tedious as the temperature itself. On the hottest day of the year, I painstakingly cut out the weather map from the Wall Street Journal. It was 112° outside the window of my apartment, where I glued the map to the glass. Backlit, the delicate shape of the country was all pinks and reds, and that important data was now rendered by cartoon suns and the scalloped edges of cold fronts. I wondered where this information came from, and began working at weather stations as well as in the landscape itself.

I am often looking for marks and traces–in the form of a graph, map, or climatological record. I wonder what proof looks like. At observatories I find a translation of wind that looks like a polygraph test, an arc of sunlight burned into paper, a rain gauge cut like a crown, a handwritten notation of the first frost. The landscape shows evidence as well–cracked earth, flood debris, eroded coastlines–in the world I find formal connections to the meteorological images. Other indicators, immediate and temporary, like sunburn or goose bumps, appear on the human body, and the built environment of monumental levees and floodgates promises our protection. As personal as it is political, the work addresses my own wonder, fear and perception of our role as vulnerable yet culpable participants.

To view more of Lily’s work please visit her website.

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