Potok, Slovakia, 2005

Liptovsky Region, Slovakia 2005

Prague, Czech Republic 2004

A. E. Fournet

Sticks, Stones, & Bones

In the early nineties I began to photograph in Eastern Europe. I was fascinated by the atmosphere of suspended time caused by the isolation of the iron curtain. Czech author, Milan Kundera, declares that the Czech word lítost has no exact translation in other languages. He describes lítost as, "...a feeling as infinite as an open accordion, a feeling that is the synthesis of many others: grief, sympathy, remorse, and an indefinable longing." Many changes took place in the Czech Republic after the Velvet Revolution. I witnessed a culture in transition and I found myself transformed by my experiences there. The changes effected both positive and negative results. I began photographing with a sense of nostalgia and regret for the things, both good and bad that would disappear under the onslaught of change.

In 1993 I photographed a group of scarecrows that appeared to be advancing or dancing towards an isolated house in the Czech countryside. This was the beginning of a fascination with the beautiful and haunting sentinels of the field created by the older generation of women, known as babickas (grandmothers), in the countryside of Central Europe. Each year the carefully created figures of scarecrows declined significantly. They are now replaced with simple constructions of sticks, twine and plastic bottles, lacking the craft and anthropomorphous characteristics of the former scarecrows. I began to travel further and further east less inhabited and accessible areas of Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland to find examples of traditional crafts. As the generation of older women ages the art of scarecrow making seems to be disappearing. This is only one example of what is lost in the east/west cultural shuffle. As more time is consumed by modernization and its distractions (i.e. TV, movies, and time saving devices) it seems that less time is devoted to simple but creative crafts in everyday life.

For me the scarecrow in the field is a representation of the Zen hermit. All change is inevitable, things change or decay, are lost, and are swept away by death and/or evolution. This is to be both regretted and celebrated.

—Annette Elizabeth Fournet