A Natural Edge

Renae Edge, Artist and Photographer

Norwalk Community College Art Professor Renae Edge, like her art, is “a flower (that) did not go to school to be a flower.”

“The beautiful things,” she says, “are the things that are growing without anybody telling them what to do.”

Her parents never asked Edge ‘What do you want to do?’ when she was growing up.  “I wasn’t given any kind of direction at all.”

Raised in an artistic family in Atlanta, Ga., Edge said that her father was a frustrated commercial artist.

“He would go into the woods, find a piece of rotten wood and hang it up on the wall. I grew up with that.” All of her siblings, a half brother, half sister and a full sister are either crafty or artistic.

Edge, (yes it is her real name) did not consider art as a career after graduating from high school. She believed teaching or the army were her options. Would she have still been an artist if she had joined the army? Edge doesn’t know if she believes in destiny.

“Choices present us with different directions, but I can’t say for sure whether the directions take us to a different place or to the same place,” Edge said.

Edge’s height and weight were below the 1981 US Army requirements of five foot tall and 110 pounds. Instead she enrolled in the Southeastern Center for Photographic Arts in Atlanta, Ga. from 1981 to 1983. From there she went on to the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., graduating with a B.A. in Art History and Drama in 1987. After receiving an M.A in Communication Arts in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin in 1989, Edge honed her artistic abilities in photography at the International Center for Photography in New York, according to her website.

Edge has been working as a Professor at NCC for the last 17 years, teaching Theater, Public Speaking, Film, Interdisciplinary Courses and Art. She worked in 36 other jobs before coming to NCC. From landscaping to driving bulldozers, professional theater to secretary, “I’ve done it all,” she said, “You’ve got to pay the bills.”

Edge’s artwork focuses on natural subjects such as energy, air, and flowers. When asked if she tries to make the invisible visible Edge said, “Of course, (artists) are expressing what’s inside, so what’s inside is invisible.”

What’s inside” can also be sad and painful. In Edge’s Infertility series she compares the “desperation, pain and humiliation of infertility” to the blooming and then withering of an amaryllis flower in her home. The photographs of the plant, as depicted on renaeedge.com, resemble the inner flesh of the womb.

Edge struggled to accept her inability to get pregnant, “It was a horrible feeling,” she said, “I just cried and cried,” Edge found the photographing of the bloom and then decay of the flower therapeutic.

“I realized when I got into those amaryllis flowers, that was what my flesh looked like,” Edge said, “I watched (the flowers) decaying and I thought, ‘Oh my God! This is what is happening to me. This flesh, its withering in there!” Edge failed to become pregnant despite attempts with fertility treatments.

The Ribbon Series and Energy Series also depicted on Renaeedge.com are further explorations in photographing the invisible. Light and wind make grosgrain ribbons take on the form of surreal landscapes in the Ribbon Series and the grosgrain ribbons again are featured in Energy, which Edge says depicts the colors she sees during her practice of qi-gong exercises and meditation.

Other work featured on Edge’s website are Morning Glories and Orchids, the latter are to be displayed at the Integrated Health Center in Fairfield, CT.

Her self published Me and My Cell Phone documents photos taken with a cell phone she owned from 2007 to 2009. At first Edge said holding this cell phone was like, “holding someone else’s dirty underwear.” The book was Edge’s attempt to learn how to make a photo book. What it became however was a pictorial documentation of the first two years after her marriage had ended. ” It was a healing time for me,” Edge said.

Edge’s art “got a whole lot better after the divorce,” Edge said. The divorce de-cluttered her life. With no televisions to distract her and the large furniture in the house now gone, Edge was left with a positive outlook and more time and space for her art.

“Energy has energy,” she said, “If you get rid of crap, you have a whole new perspective and it is a much more whole way of living.”

Edge and her ex-husband remained amicable. Edge’s husband told her after the divorce, “You finally became the person you always were.”

Most recently, Edge has received attention for her One Sky: Gifts from the Crow Indian Reservation Exhibition which ran from Nov. 10, 2010 to Jan. 19, 2011 at NCC. Her connection with Harriet Little Owl, who along with Harriet’s husband, Ettinge Little Owl, showed Edge and others around the reservation.

It was Edge’s finding of a feather that shocked Harriet and consequently evoked deeper conversation between the two women.

Edge found an eagle feather in a spiritual place called Pretty Eagle’s Point. “I didn’t even know what I had in my hand.” Edge said. According to Harriet Little Owl, because Edge was a white woman, this connection with the eagle was very rare.

Harriet Little Owl, “believes the white people are star people, we have come down from the stars to take care of the earth and we’re doing a really crappy job right now,” Edge said.

Her experience with the Crow Indian people resulted not only in her exhibition, but also Edge was given a Crow Indian name by Harriet Little Owl. Harriet named Edge,

“Bah-good-kuch-shi-wish.” In English it means, “She who helps children.”

It was also her experience at the Crow Indian Reservation that deepened her affinity with animals. Edge has been known to crawl on her belly though snow covered marshes, her cellphone in hand, to photograph nature and animals. Although she bought a Konica SLR because it fit into her small hands, she leaves it at home when she ventures out into the woods and on nature treks.

“I don’t take the SLR camera with me on my treks, only the cell phone,” Edge said. “When I’m out in the marshes and woods, I want to be IN them,  not observing them,” she said.

When asked what advice she would give to young artists Edge refers to a sticky note on her computer. “What do you like?” What Edge likes is to see the beauty in all that surrounds her, “I absolutely despise photography the way that photography is now,” Edge said. “Photography now is all about, ‘Look at the ugliness we’ve made.’ I hate that,” Edge said, and added “Life is beautiful.”

“We are all going to end up in the same place; dead,” Edge said, “It is up to us to choose what road we take to get there. Do we choose one filled with joy and gratitude or do we choose one filled with fear and anger?”

Edge has had exhibitions of her artwork in Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Georgia and New Orleans.

Photographs used with permission of the artist. The titles and copyrights are:

Ribbons60429021c  copyright 2006 (left)

Infertility #18  copyright 2000 (right)

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