Artist's Statement

Sarah Rice

On 72 acres of farmland and forest, off a dirt road in rural Virginia, around 30 people live in what they describe as an anarchist, egalitarian, non-coercive, non-hierarchical, consensus-based, income-sharing, sustainable, consent-based culture.  

Within the boundaries of those few policies is an enormous expanse of freedom. You can see it in the way they inhabit their bodies, the ways they interact with each other, with the land and with the animals, and the ways they float lightly or run haphazardly through the property. Members of the community tell me these photos capture what it feels like to live there, which years ago turned into the driving force behind this work for me.   

I began photographing with a digital camera on this property in 2011, when a project exploring the concept of community led me from a group of cloistered nuns to this commune. I continued to visit other communities but was repeatedly drawn back to this one—my attention consumed by the freedom experienced on this property in ways not found in places with more organization and structure. 

What happens when community norms allow for complete exploration and reinvention? What would your name be if you could choose it? What is your gender? Who do you like to sleep with? What do you want to learn? How do you want to spend your hours and days? What if you didn’t have to worry about a roof over your head, hot meals, finding community? What happens if you question everything and restructure your world from the ground up? 

Since the community’s inception in the 1990’s, communards have been exploring questions likes these. Love is given and received in all manner of relationship configurations and opinions are as varying as the types of organic seeds they sell.