The Serpent Was Subtil
Archival print from film negative
Paul L. Nettles (born 1967, Houma, Louisiana) produces photos, oil paintings, and found-object sculptures as a means of coping with the weight of being a conscious being in a world that seems determined to self-destruct. By working with detritus, reclaimed materials, and antique cameras and film equipment, I force myself to work within rigorously self-imposed strictures; being aggressively driven to create as fast and as much as possible, these intentional barricades force me to reflect deeply, to put far more thought and time into how an object is recorded or built in order to make the most of the limited materials while staying true to my gut instincts.
The discovery of an abandoned school and its attendant facilities brought back a flood of childhood traumas born from a Catholic private school upbringing: metal playground equipment on hot asphalt, the iron rod of discipline enforced by stern-faced women, and formative years feeling desperately alone, unwanted, and castigated for not fitting the roles assigned to one of his age and sex. All these feelings that as a child I felt I could not voice to my parents, and instead internalized as How It Must Be. The landscape I captured in this series evokes these old scars and wakes a fierce joy that there can be an end to my childhood.