Lucinda Devlin: Subterranea
Mar 7 – May 22, 2022
I made the earliest images for Subterranea in 1980 at the Skyline Caverns, Front Royal, VA.
Until 2007 all my photographic work was of interiors, so in a way, the 1980 works inside caves seemed like an extension of those interiors. My interest then and now is the impact that human-beings have had on these natural geological spaces.
Human-beings have, of course, used/inhabited caves for millions of years. I have tried and failed numerous times to gain access to the Lascaux 2 complex (the reproduction of Lascaux). This is a commercial enterprise which prohibits outside photography in favor of selling works produced in house. The original natural cave is closed to all but scientific research. There are other prehistoric caves and cave paintings in France and Spain as well as reproduction caves that I may at some point investigate with my camera.
The history of Mammoth Cave in KY is interesting because of its use during the Civil War to mine salt peter, evidenced by tools actually left behind. At a later point, the cave was used for tuberculosis therapy until it was determined that the damp air wasn’t particularly good for lung patients.
Over the years I’ve visited caves in which various therapies are carried out - Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Montana, and Heilstollen HohlenTherapie and Eisenstollen HohlenTherapie in Germany. Other caves have become tourist attractions — Mammoth Caves in KY; Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico; the Zipiquira Salt Cathedral in Colombia, South America; Glaciers in Zermatt Switzerland and in Iceland; a cave home in Missouri; an Underground City in Cappadocia, Turkey, and even a dormant volcano in Iceland.
I have many other underground sites to photograph in far flung countries, but there are still places in the US that I want to investigate— specifically an underground concert venue and various underground recreational activity sites. There are bomb shelters, homes in former missile silos, and a home beneath Las Vegas that I have long been trying to track down.
I have spent the night at the Beckham Creek Cave home. This cave, originally outfitted by its wealthy owner as a place to go for protection should there be a nuclear blast, turned out to be the best night sleep I’ve ever had! Later it was used as a brothel and the last I checked, it had become a B&B.
Visually, I’m interested in the use of light, colored and otherwise, to illuminate the spaces. I’m curious to see how they have been transformed to accommodate the activities within the cave. These juxtapositions are sometimes ironic, sometimes jarring, often beautiful. As always with my work, I’m interested in how these spaces reflect the cultures in which they exist.
My series are often ongoing, spanning many years. I add to them over time and I anticipate continuing to work on Subterranea.
--Lucinda Devlin, March 2022