(Mamatis 1, Dighton, Kansas, 2011)

Supercell Kevin Erskine, texts by Richard Hamblyn and Redmond O’Hanlon

Hatje Cantze, 78 €

Supercell Cover

If Mother Nature has her own knights, they might look a little like the phenomena that Kevin Erskine has been chasing since he was a boy. In the introduction to this fantastic book, Richard Hamblyn locates Erskine’s work in its proper context and heritage: “When landscape painter J. W. Turner had himself tied to the mast of a storm-lashed steamship in the winter of 1841, he said he doubted whether he would survive the ordeal, but felt obliged to record if he did. ‘I wished to show what such a scene was like’… Yet the result remains one of his most celebrated works, ‘Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ (1842), a stupefying vortex of paint and power.”

Erskine and Turner are related by much more than their enthusiasm for storm-chasing. Art is their common DNA –although Kevin Erskine may have a slight advantage in terms of the subject matter, since he grew up –so they say– in the midst of a tornado. In 1966, at the age of ten, Kevin and his family moved from Sharpsburg, Illinois, to Hoskins, Nebraska –a small community in the heart of ‘Tornado Alley’. On June 5, 1968, an EF4 tornado with wind speeds of 200 miles per hour ‘visited’ his hometown –so Erskine could really understand first-hand the meaning of the word ‘destruction’. A few years later, aboard his first pick-up, Erskine pursued more of nature’s ‘fear and awe’, becoming part of the thrill-seeking generation –if not exactly the perfect ‘Yahoo’ prototype of radio-techno-hunting. To Erskine and his large-format camera, technology required to capture the image takes a back seat. To stand beneath a supercell structure that envelops you and the horizon –wherever you look in any direction– is the moment when you can measure and capture the breathless beauty of nature. Should we ask Benjamin Franklin why he followed the course of a northeastern ‘big storm’ all the way from Philadelphia to Boston in October 1743? Maybe, looking at Kevin Erskine’s work, we can understand part of the answer: each of these powerful knights is nature’s way of reminding us that man is simply human. In these changing times, it is worth being reminded of this message. During the many years he has spent under such ferocious skies, Erskine has found a very self-effacing way of looking at these living sculptures –which is the reason why his work makes such a profound impact.

By Jean-Christophe Nothias


Mothership Clayton

(Mothership, Clayton, New Mexico, 2009)

Supercell Hugo Colorado 2011

(Supercell, Hugo, Colorado, 2011)