Category Archives: Visibility

Gwynneth VanLaven’s Works on Visibility




For some time since the event of a car careening into and crushing my body, I have had a special affinity for traffic cones. As distraction from my fearful perception of cars as speeding bullets, I play “spot the cone” as we pass by. I feel somehow at peace in company of my pointy orange friends. I begin to distinguish one from another; they develop characters, each with its own traits, state of newness or of decay. I began to collect them. For my birthday I was gifted me several old souls, and for Easter, a shiny new virgin, plucked up mid-highway and spared from certain demise. My cones and traffic barrels were abandoned to rot in a median, tossed asunder in a tar field, or dragged under a truck on an interstate. Each has its own story told in exhaust grime and battle-scars. And yet, they stand still at attention, holding vigil, bare to the world, to both signal and to witness the presence of vehicular danger.

ArtBeta: Works in Progress – Link to “Bare/Witness” Project Portfolio

“The Visibility Color”

Asphalta Angelica

My interest in the topic of visibility comes from both my critique of visual culture, and my personal journey. Since I was struck, pinned, and disabled by a car in 2007 while walking on the safety of a sidewalk, I have wondered how to keep others and myself safe from similar fates. I notice the fluorescent lime green vests that police and rescue workers wear, as well as construction workers, trash collectors, joggers and cyclists. I see the color becoming more prevalent in our (sub)urban landscape, even from thong underwear to children’s backpacks.

In the following photographic series In the Wake of a Lincoln Town Car, I center on the safety color fluorescent yellow-green.  This color shrouds, cloaks, and envelops me.  With light from automobile headlights, the gestures and textures bespeak both dwelling in and departure from the memory of being struck by a car.  Through these large-scale photographs, I explore my new territory in relationship to color, safety, and memory.

Crossing Visible, 2012

I wonder, who is visible? Does visibility make us safer or more vulnerable? Can everyone be equally visible? How do we keep a sense of safety in a world that feels chaotic and over-sped? I began research into the properties that make this color visible and signal warning to drivers. It relates to studies on colorimetrics, semiotics, and human factors research. The effect is curious when we don the color, imagining that it might stop or slow an oncoming car and protect us from injury or death. I wonder what will happen as the trend continues. As the color pops up everywhere, will this diminish the awakening effect on motorists?

Through this recent camera work I also explore ideas of motion and stillness in photography and in life.  A camera is said to capture, or freeze an action in time and space.  So too does a traumatic event.  Unable to stop the car hurtling toward my place on the sidewalk, I feel captured by memory and frozen.   I use photography to <em>un</em>freeze, in order to create something new.  The resulting images open a window to for viewers to connect to their own winding journeys.  We access these while in the spaces between dreaming and waking, safety and vulnerability, and self and other.