BLUE BRIDGE/red shift was inspired by three lift bridges that run side by side over the Hackensack River in New Jersey. I loved the way small houses were perched within the complex structures. After I had photographed them from afar, my friend Rackstraw Downes told me that he had painted another lift bridge over the river. He had gotten to know the operators. “I can get you up on the bridge!” he said and he did. One day soon after, we were welcomed by the crew, we climbed a ladder up and up, and I was able to photograph not only the bridge very up close but also the interiors of the houses.
BLUE BRIDGE/red shift looks like a drawbridge with a little green-painted house on the side of the track and another over it. The track is lit with a row of blue bulbs. In subway language, blue bulbs indicate the location of emergency phones and exits. Along the track and between the two houses is strung a complex tangle of tubes, and the green house glows red from within. It is the control house. The house over the track has a clock on the wall, set to just after midnight. There is the sound of a boat and a foghorn conversing across great distance.
As I completed the work in the weeks after my mother died, I decided to dedicate it to her and to the memory of our complex but loving relationship. After she died, I added “red shift” to the BLUE BRIDGE title because in astronomy, a celestial body glowing red is understood to be moving away from us, while something that appears blue is moving toward us.
Photo credit: Peter Mauss/ESTO