O Pioneer by Areca Roe

Issue 90

My art practice engages with our culture’s relationship (or lack thereof) with the natural world. This relationship is a complex one—we need it, we revere it, we protect it, and we also destroy it. But above all, we have separated ourselves from the natural world. In my work, I explore how these barriers and desires manifest themselves in our lives and our society.

Over the past few years, one way I have been exploring these relationships is by creating and photographing miniature landscapes using fake fur as the land substrate. The resulting series of large scale photographs, titled O Pioneer, hearken back to the pioneering Western photographers of the late 1800s, in a tongue-in-cheek manner. These photographers, such as William Henry Jackson and Carleton Watkins, surveyed the West in North America and brought back stunning imagery of splendor and bounty. Their images helped propel the problematic narrative of Manifest Destiny. Much of my imagery is directly borrowed from these historical photographs, while some simply reference the genre. The odd fur-lined land substitutes for the majesty in these images, and become in some ways as otherworldly and foreign as those brought back by the surveying photographers—images of strange rock formations, geysers, pristine waterfalls, and wide open plains.

The strange materiality of the fake fur also inspired the images—I feel both a sense of attraction and repulsion to the substance. It is meant to be soft and comforting, though the rough acrylic fibers and chemical odors make for a poor imitation of the fur of a dead animal.   The resulting series of photographs are clearly a simulation, a farce, with the fake fur as a reference to the lure of potential bounty as well as the resulting devastation. 

Areca Roe lives and works in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
To view more of Areca's work, please visit her website.

 Forest

Forest

 
 Camp

Camp

 
 Lagoon

Lagoon

 
 Railroad

Railroad

 
 Savanna Burn

Savanna Burn

 
 Telephone Line

Telephone Line

 
 Canyon

Canyon

 
 Pacific

Pacific

 
 Passenger Pigeons

Passenger Pigeons

 
 Windmill

Windmill

 
 Water Station

Water Station

 
 Hot Springs

Hot Springs

 
 Shack

Shack