Mike and Doug Starn, Structure of Thought 30, 2001-2006

Mike and Doug Starn (1961 – ), Structure of Thought 30, archival digital print with vellum overlay. 2001-2006/2016. Private collection.

For more than three decades, identical twins Mike and Doug Starn have worked conceptually to cross disciplinary boundaries between photography, sculpture, and architectural installation. Employing unorthodox materials and techniques, the Starns have used materials ranging from layered fused glass panels and wax to gilding and scotch tape. Layering of materials intensifies the mystery of their series of metaphoric images of trees, a series titled Structure of Thought.

The Starns use the intertwined branches of a tree (or is this a photograph of neurons?—they let us wonder) to visualize layers of ideas and connections in the mental and natural world. The Starns remind us that mental activity is far more complicated than a simple camera-recorded image. It is a complicated mass of intersections and layers.

This idea can be extended to the entire ecological world, with its complex webs of dependency. In this work, the notion of interdependency is enacted literally, as a photograph on transparent vellum is layered over a second underlying image to create a third image that could not exist without the other two.