Scott Rankin at
McLean County Arts Center
By Maggie Morton
February 4, 2017
About his subject matter, photographer Scott Rankin writes, “The sky is the source of air, light, moisture, and energy. It illuminates and reflects the land…In the past one hundred years or so, we have been privileged to dwell there for precious moments, accumulating, if we are lucky, a few hundred or thousand hours.” For those of us who are not so lucky, walking into Rankin’s exhibition Thin Deep Ribbon, offers something like the sensation of being 45,000 feet above the ground. The series of framed prints, all equal in size, are hung low along the walls of a modest, rectangular room, in an arrangement reminiscent of the windows of an airplane cabin. Indeed, many of Rankin’s images of the sky were taken from just that vantage point.
Moving through the exhibition, I had the feeling of climbing in altitude—from below the clouds, to inside them, and finally, above them. Even so, orientation was often slippery. Rankin captures clouds, not as objects, but as spaces—spaces that appear and disintegrate and transform with every change in the wind. Even in the stillness of an image, the distinctions between flatness and depth come forward and recede based on one’s shifting attention.
Rankin has been photographing clouds since the early 2000s, so it’s no surprise that his images are numbered in the thousands. Occupying their own wall are two prints titled “Moment 8943” and “Moment 5056.” Though taken years, and perhaps miles, apart, these “moments” are tethered to each other. Looking into each one, I recognized not only the color and form of the other, but the feeling that I had been there before, if only in passing. Rankin’s photographs are a reminder that stretching above us is a shared space that holds enough depth for thousands of moments, each unique enough to surprise us, and familiar enough to unite us in shared experience.
Maggie Morton is an artist, writer, and poet, who earned her BFA in Painting from Illinois State University in 2016. Morton currently lives and works in Normal, IL. Her writings have been published by Sixty Inches From Center and Catfish Creek.